New Research Sheds Light on Culture Behind Violence

New research on the cultural causes of and solutions to violence against women was presented in Phnom Penh on Friday in a bid to help those interested in ending violence understand what fuels it, specifically in a Cambodian context.

The research is 25 years in the making—born out of ethnographic studies from the 1990s on violence in Cambodia and honed between 2011 and 2014 in a joint effort by a team from Melbourne’s Monash University and Cambodia-based NGOs.

“Our findings bear out the proposition that people view the causes and solutions to violence as being mainly to do with violations of culturally driven norms, such as the incompatibility of couples and violations of spiritual codes, rather than simply to do with stereotypes about the factors of alcohol, poverty and social change,” the summary said.

“Further, our findings confirm that traditional Buddhist and local healing techniques could help the victim and perpetrator and mitigate the effects of violence against women.”

Researcher Maurice Eisenbruch, a professor at Monash University, presented lived experiences to try and illustrate this point.

In one, a man was believed by his family to have attacked his wife and thrown her into oncoming traffic because he neglected to pay respects to the spirits of his ancestors.

After he and his wife jointly visited a healer, harmony was restored in the home.

Another aspect of the research looked at the kind of language that precedes or defines violence against women, which the researchers found to be the “crucible of violence.”

But by listening to everyday speech and understanding what kinds of interventions Cambodians turn to, programs to end violence can benefit from couching their messages in that familiar language and by utilizing the likes of monks and healers in those programs.

Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), said cultural context is key when addressing the issue.

“Beatings and rape—this is really contradicting the culture, but people feel that it is their private issue, so how can they share it with others?

“We have to try to look at how the culture would respond to end violence against women, in this current situation, in a Cambodian context.”

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