Groups To Rally for Domestic Violence Law

A coalition of 33 organizations is planning a two-day rally later this month to pressure the Na­tional Assembly into finally passing a national domestic violence law that has been stymied by parliamentarian opposition and burea­ucratic roadblocks for more than two years.

“We need parliamentarians to pass the domestic violence law during this term of government,” said Ly Sunlina, women’s rights co­­­ordinator for Licadho, a human rights organization involved in organizing the rally.

More than 200 participants—many of them victims of domestic violence—plan to demonstrate  May 26 and May 27 for the law’s passage. If approved, it would be the first law in Cambodia to define domestic violence and hold accountable anyone—man or woman—who beats, intimidates or threatens his or her spouse.

Some organizers say they fear that without more public pressure, the draft law will be overshadowed by July’s national elections. “Pres­ently parliamentarians are paying more attention to the upcoming national elections; however, I suggest they talk about and then pass the domestic violence bill as fast as possible,” Licadho Presi­dent Kek Galabru said.

The draft law has drawn criticism from some lawmakers for being too broad and effectively changing traditional Khmer culture as it relates to marriage.

But Minister of Women’s Af­fairs Mu Sochua said she doubts the law would change Khmer culture. It will, however, help protect the rights of women and men alike who fall victim to domestic violence, she said.

“We want the domestic violence law passed,” said Sun Sothy, director of Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, an organization that works with victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. “The domestic violence law is very important to Cambodia society.”

She said the law would become instrumental to the organization’s efforts to protect women from be­coming victims of domestic violence. A major hurdle to getting the legislation passed is that the Na­tional Assembly is dominated by men, she said, and that “they don’t see this as an issue that af­fects them.”

Although the group of NGOs and others are planning to gather to push for passage of the law, they have yet to obtain official permission for the demonstration, according to Mann Chhoeurn, Phnom Penh’s Cabinet chief. When he receives the official request, it will then be up to the Ministry of Interior if the demonstration is allowed to take place.

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