Movement To Combat Violence Is 5,000-Strong

More than 5,000 Cambodian signatures against gender-based violence were among the millions handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday for the International Day for the Elimina­tion of Violence Against Women, according to the UN Development Fun for Women.

Cambodia is joining the global movement for women’s rights and has made significant progress in recent years, but violence against women is still a pervasive issue, Unifem’s Cambodia office said in a news release.

“5,000 people in Cambodia signing on to the Say No to Violence against Women campaign is a significant indicator that there is growing concern about the issue,” Uni­fem Country Program Manag­er Lynn Lee said in an e-mail.

“The fact that there is a National Plan of Action to Prevent Violence against Women shows that there is a much needed recognition of the devastating impact that violence against women has on society as a whole.”

A culture of impunity and traditional values, illustrated by the Khmer saying “men are gold, women are cloth,” lead to unequal relations between the sexes and attitudes ranging from disrespect to outright violence, Lee added.

Supporting the campaign, Mini­ster of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi pointed in the release to government efforts such as the inclusion of targets on domestic violence and human trafficking in Cambo­dia’s national Millennium Develop­ment Goals. But she also recognized much work still needs to be done.

The Cambodia Gender Assess­ment 2008 released by the Wo­men’s Affairs Ministry in March indicates that “violence against women remains widely prevalent in Cambodia with indications of in­creasing incidence of at least some forms of gender-based violence, particularly rape.”

The report adds that domestic violence affects about one in four Cambodian women and that sexual exploitation is “entrenched” in the country.

The report also shows that violent behaviors against women are widely accepted, or at least tolerated, even among women, 55 percent of which agreed with at least one reason justifying a husband’s violence.

Nop Sarin Sreiroth, secretary-general of the Cambodian Wo­men’s Crisis Center, said her organization Tuesday started a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence.

On Dec 5, the organization will encourage people in Banteay Mean­chey province’s Malai district to wear white ribbons, the international symbol of the campaign against gender-based violence, she said.

“We selected Malai district be­cause that location is also a major place where the worst forms of do­mestic violence and rape have been occurring,” she said.

Her offices in Phnom Penh, Ban­teay Meanchey and Siem Reap pro­vinces receive together at least 20 reports of rape every month, she said, adding the victims seem to be getting younger and younger.

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