Japanese Expert Tells of Lasting Legacy of Forced Marriage

The traumatic legacy of forced marriage during the Pol Pot re­gime lasted far beyond its fall, with higher levels of domestic abuse found among families in which the parents were coerced into wedlock, a Japanese academic told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday.

Kasumi Nakagawa, a lecturer at Phnom Penh’s Pannasastra University who has conducted extensive research into Khmer Rouge gender issues, was testifying for a second day as an expert witness on forced marriages under the rule of the ultra-communists.

On Tuesday, she told the court of the effects of forced marriage and consummation on couples. Yes­terday, she spoke of the enduring psychological wounds inflicted on the families of those couples.

“I think one of the long-lasting legacies is the impact on children who were born out of such a forced marriage,” Ms. Nakagawa said, go­ing on to cite one of her previous studies on the subject.

“In many families…the study shows that if parents were forced into marriage during the Khmer Rouge, the prevalence of domestic violence, particularly by the husband against the wife, is higher than that of non-forced marriage couples,” she said.

The majority of victims Ms. Na­kagawa interviewed remained with their partner after the fall of the regime in 1979 and attempted to block out the dark memories of their marriage.

“They look back on their forced marriage as the beginning of their long journey as a couple, as a mother and father, until today,” she said.

“When I asked the specific question about the time of the marriage in the Khmer Rouge, they don’t have any happy memories. They were very sad to look back on the past and many were very angry that they were forced into the marriage,” she added.

“For the sake and happiness of the child, they were forced to try and forget about the past and look forward to survival.”

The researcher was later asked by Doreen Chen, senior legal con­sultant for Nuon Chea—who is on trial alongside fellow regime lead­er Khieu Samphan—about comments she made about the added trauma that women faced when forced to marry disabled soldiers.

“I would try to avoid any discriminatory comments,” Ms. Nakagawa said. “But at that time during the [Democratic Kampuchea] period, both men and women, single or mar­ried, they were living under ex­tra­ordinary hardship. Adding any burden should have been avoid­ed by any means.”

“Unfortunately, marrying with the ordinary person—even against their own will—for survival was rather acceptable in comparison to marrying a man who has disabilities that would require a huge protection or care from the wife.”

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