Forced marriages during the Pol Pot regime and the subsequent monitoring of newlyweds to ensure they were having sex led to “legalized rape” across the country, an expert witness told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday.
Kasumi Nakagawa, a Japanese academic who has conducted extensive research into gender issues during the Khmer Rouge era, appeared at the tribunal as an expert witness on forced marriage in Democratic Kampuchea.
Local cadre requiring couples to marry and procreate has been a recurring theme during the current phase of Case 002—in which the regime’s second-in-command, Nuon Chea, and head of state, Khieu Samphan, are on trial for crimes including genocide.
Ms. Nakagawa, who teaches at Phnom Penh’s Pannasastra University, said the monitoring of newlyweds to ensure they were consummating their nuptials occurred nationwide under the Khmer Rouge and inflicted trauma on both men and women.
“Forcing a man to rape somebody is an inhumane act,” Ms. Nakagawa said. “Not all men could do it, first of all, but they were forced to do that. The fear is unmeasurable.”
The new wives were frightened and didn’t want to accept their husbands, she said, but “under such terrible circumstances, men had to complete it.”
Ms. Nakagawa said she suspected that many men who couldn’t rape their wives were sent for “re-education”—often used as a euphemism for execution.
Alternately, men who committed rape suffered psychological trauma while grappling with their guilt and attempting to recover their masculinity, she said.
The psychological damage inflicted on women was even more complex, Ms. Nakagawa said, as the forced consummation added to the trauma of an undesired marriage without traditional ceremonies.
“First of all, the impact was already huge when she was forced to marry against her will and without her parents’ consent,” she said.
“She has to accept her husband because it’s an absolute order. She cannot say no,” she added.
Although Ms. Nakagawa told the prosecution earlier in the day that she could not be sure whether the Khmer Rouge policy on forced marriage emanated from the regime’s “top level,” she affirmed that the consummation of a forced marriage constituted rape.
“When we’re speaking about a forced marriage, do you believe the consummation of this marriage necessarily led to rape or not?” asked civil party lawyer Marie Guiraud.
“Yes. In my opinion, it was legalized rape,” Ms. Nakagawa replied.