How Cambodian women are using theatre to speak out against domestic abuse

One in five women in Cambodia report experiencing domestic abuse – now a theatre group in Battambang is producing shows that help survivors talk about what is still a taboo subject.

Chenda usually spends her days in her rural village collecting scrap metal and looking after her seven children. But on a recent afternoon, the 42-year-old woman wore a drawn-on moustache and checked men’s shirt as she staggered around a makeshift stage by a busy road, playing a drunk husband shouting at his wife.

“I’ve told you again and again. Don’t follow me and ask me to come back home when I’m drinking,” shouted the actor. “I will kill you.”

It was a scene that mirrored Chenda’s own experience of years of physical and emotional abuse from her husband. For the next 30 minutes, around 60 neighbours and friends sat watching under a big tent in the north-western city of Battambang, while Chenda and a small group of domestic violence survivors performed a story familiar to many in Cambodia – complete with a violent partner, gossiping neighbours and unresponsive authorities.

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