Gang rape in Cambodia: A means of male bonding

Too many men in Cambodia feel entitled to shame, reject, harass and even rape women, writes Johanna Higgs.

I am sitting on the balcony of a two-storey wooden house in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The style of the house is typical for Cambodia — dark planks of wood with a simple interior, raised on stilts to avoid floods during the rainy season. The weather is sweltering, as it is all-year-round in Cambodia.

Palm trees line the streets, illustrating that for certain I am in the tropics. Chickens scurry below me in the house and women chatter as they go about their daily work. All a typical scene in Cambodia.

What is also typical of Cambodia, is the story that I am listening to. I am sitting with a local Cambodian woman who works for one of the only women’s centres in Siem Reap. She is explaining how according to Cambodian traditions and beliefs, a man “cannot be shamed” — or at least he can be cleaned from his shame, while a woman cannot.

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