Cambodia Urged to Do More to Protect Women, Advance Rights

The government needs to do more to protect migrant workers, ensure that women have access to legal aid, bring cases of violence against women to court and draft an anti-discrimination law, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) said in a new report.

The report is an assessment of the fourth and fifth periodic updates Cambodia made to the U.N. committee earlier this month. In that hearing, a delegation led by Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi presented member-country experts with updates on what the government has done to advance wom­en’s rights in Cambodia, but conceded that challenges remain.

“The Committee notes with concern the delegation’s response that the State party does not consider it necessary to amend its legislation by adopting a comprehensive definition of discrimination, which prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination,” Cedaw said in the report.

“The Committee is also concerned that there have not been any cases involving discrimination against women before the courts of the State party.”

The committee also called on Cambodia to repeal an article in the Law on Marriage and Family that extends a woman’s marriage by 120 days after the death of, or divorce from, her husband, which the committee said is “a discriminatory provision, as it does not apply to men, and seeks reportedly to assist in the establishment of paternity of children.”

In her presentation, Dr. Kantha Phavi told the U.N. panel of experts that there have been no documented cases of women taking up court cases in incidents of violence and abuse—something that the assessment report said must be ad­dressed. The report suggested that a legal aid scheme be established, and that more be done to punish perpetrators of such violence.

According to the report, more also needs to be done to disseminate information among women on the risks of labor migration and provide warnings on bogus recruitment agencies that are involved in what amounts to a near-legal form of human trafficking.

“Ensure that traffickers and other persons responsible for sexual exploitation of women and girls are prosecuted and adequately punished, and strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in combating human trafficking for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation,” the report states.

Cambodia has been invited to present its next update to the committee in 2017.

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