Khmer Rouge Marriages Not Forced, Expert Says

An expert witness told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday that she had not encountered evidence of mass forced marriages during the Pol Pot regime as part of her research.

Peg LeVine, an American-Australian trauma psychologist and author of “Love and Dread in Cambodia: Weddings, Births and Ritual Harm under the Khmer Rouge,” was testifying in the current phase on the regulation of marriage in the trial of the regime’s second-in-command Nuon Chea and head of state Khieu Samphan.

Psychologist Peg LeVine testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Monday. (ECCC)
Psychologist Peg LeVine testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Monday. (ECCC)

Ms. LeVine argued that despite the “profound” destruction of traditional marriage rituals during the Khmer Rouge, she had encountered little evidence of mass forced marriages.

“I did come to the conclusion that they were not forced,” she said.

“That was basically because of how people described their weddings to me, their experiences to me, their agreement with the choice of the person,” she added. “They were usually in agreement.”

Ms. LeVine’s theories fly in the face of other experts in the field who have concluded that forced marriage was a nationwide practice under the regime.

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge have told the court about officials standing under their houses to ensure that they had sex upon marriage, while one woman told of being raped by an official after refusing to consummate her marriage.

Ms. LeVine said about 40 percent of the 192 people she surveyed had been instructed to consummate their marriages, but no one reported being threatened with death if they refused to have sex.

“Of course, I’m not wanting to make the implication that the way in which this happened under [Democratic Kampuchea] was tasteful, but consummation of marriage, typically, in the Western world—when we talk about the honeymoon period—is expected,” she said.

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