Local rights group Licadho distributed food and other supplies to more than 600 female prisoners and guards at prisons around the country Thursday to mark International Women’s Day.
Female staff and inmates at 18 prisons each received “symbolic” packets of food, hygiene products and a krama from the NGO, said Licadho founder Kek Galabru.
“[The donations were given] just to show that we don’t forget about them,” she said. “[Prisoners] have rights to live like others.”
Keo Khemaly, an inmate at Phnom Penh’s PJ Prison jailed a year ago for smuggling drugs, said she had fallen into a life of crime because she was poor.
“[I] had no money,” she said in an interview. “I want people to avoid drug smuggling—it is not a good job for you.”
On Thursday morning, PJ Prison’s five female inmates—four of them clad in blue uniforms—waited eagerly for visitors who arrived during the lunch hour. The five women share a 4-by-8-meter cell.
“Those women get on well with each other,” said Srey Vanntha, director of PJ Prison, adding that the women routinely cook meals together in the prison yard.
Conditions for female inmates at CC2—the women’s section of Prey Sar Prison—are more difficult, said Licadho Coordinator Sao Chan Horm. Up to 36 women crowd one cell, and 15 children live with their mothers at the prison, she said. Five of the nearly 300 female prisoners who received gifts from Licadho were pregnant, she added.
Licadho released a report this month on violence against women in 2006.
According to the report, reported cases of domestic violence “significantly increased” last year, going from 178 cases in 2005 to 220 cases. It is not clear whether the increase was due to more cases or more reporting. “But the reality is that domestic violence is very common,” the report says.
The report indicated that rape cases increased from 66 cases reported to Licadho in 2005 to 86 last year; rapes reported in the media increased from 286 in 2005 to 311 in 2006.