Tears welled up in the eyes of the woman in the pink shirt as she recounted her experience of the gang rape phenomenon known as “bauk” after a conference on the subject Friday.
“When I came back home at night, I caught a motodop and after that he took me to be raped,” she said.
Three other men were waiting. They attacked her, raped her and stole her money.
“I was a beer girl, I didn’t have any choice,” the woman, who declined to be named, told a group of listeners on the final day of a three-day conference, the “Youth Non-Consensual Sex Working Group Presentation,” sponsored by the NGO Care International in Cambodia.
Princess Norodom Rattana Devi, Ratanakkiri province parliamentarian, listened to the woman’s story and others Friday so she could speak on the issue for the 15th International AIDS Conference, which she will attend in Bangkok next week.
Researchers at the conference reported a surge in the prevalence of the often brutal rapes, which some have reported can involve more than 20 men having sex with one woman, usually a prostitute.
“It cannot go on like this,” Norodom Rattana Devi said Friday. “[Perpetrators] should be prosecuted. If once, twice prosecuted, they will never dare to do it again.”
Cambodian law, however, is rarely enforced in cases of bauk, said Chan Sotheavy, director of the civil affairs department at the Ministry of Justice.
“The bauk phenomenon is not stipulated in the law,” she said. “But we have gang rape in the criminal code.”
A new penal code, awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers, may not include the issue either, she said Friday.
Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua said Sunday that she would work to make sure the issue was included.
“Somehow we missed bauk,” she said, referring to the new penal code. “We cannot be wasting time. How do we make sure that every single person…will be talking about bauk?”
About 80 young people attended the first two days of the conference, in which they drafted recommendations to government officials, including the establishment of three rape units at existing health centers, rape-sensitization training for judges in the court system, law enforcement for all victims, advocacy campaigns to dispel myths about rape and health education for the young.