The National Assembly will adopt a long-awaited law against domestic violence as early as next year, officials at the Council of Ministers and Ministry of Women’s Affairs said Wednesday.
“We hope and need [a domestic violence law] to be adopted in 2005 because it is a priority project to protect our social security and public order,” said Suong Leang Hay, deputy director of the Council of Minister’s project management unit on legal and judicial reform. Prime Minister Hun Sen recently ordered Cabinet Minister Sok An to take action to ensure a law is adopted in the current term of government, he added.
Parliamentarians failed to approve a domestic violence draft law during the previous mandate because they were too busy campaigning for the July 2003 national election, said Ung Kunthaphavy, Minister of Women’s and Veterans‘ Affairs. Cultural resistance was also a factor, she added.
“Some parliamentarians disagreed with the creation of domestic violence law, saying ‘we are making revolution against Cambodian culture and customs,’ because some of them are not aware of the matters of violence,” she said.
The draft law will return to the Council of Ministers at the end of this year for the Cabinet’s approval with possible revisions, some proposed by local NGOs, to improve it, said Sam Monnika, Women’s Affairs Ministry’s technical affairs department director general.
The draft law addresses both men and women in couples, but could also include other cohabitants, enabling victimized house mates to file suit, she said. The law may also give commune chiefs the power to issue warrants, making it easier for those in remote areas to file complaints.
“Some provinces have no court and some have only one court, therefore it would take too long for victims to get warrants because of the need to travel long distances,” said Ly Sunlina, women’s rights coordinator for the rights group Licadho.
Victims sometimes flee their attackers and return to find their property sold. Ly Sunlina said that by giving commune chiefs more power, the victim’s property rights may be protected.
Another potential revision, suggested by Assembly officials, emphasizes education, reconciliation and mediation before punishment, Ung Kunthaphavy said.