Program to Fight Domestic Violence To Begin

A six-month pilot program to train community leaders and civil servants to combat domestic violence will be launched by the Women’s Re­source Center of the Cambodian De­fenders Project in early Jan­uary, Resource Center officials said Monday.

“Community-minded citizens,” in­cluding members of local police for­ces, will be chosen to participate in the “Cambodian Sentinels Against Domestic Violence” project training courses. Police and lo­cal officials will participate in a three-day course, said Sok Sam Oeun, ex­ecutive director of the Cambodi­an Defenders Project. “Police officers want to help society, but they do not yet have the sensitivity needed,” he said.

The Civil Society Governance Fund of the Canadian Interna­tion­al Development Agency will provide funding for the project, which seeks to discover why vic­tims of domestic violence rarely report physical and emotional offenses, and why local officials often do not act when cases are re­ported in their communities.

Sok Sam Oeun said do­m­es­tic violence—including economic, psychological and physical abuse within the home —affects 25 percent of the Cam­bo­dian population, according to a June 2001 Ministry of Planning report.

The 40 “sentinels” in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kompong Cham and Kompong Thom prov­inces will be trained and supported by the Resource Center.

The watchdogs will monitor incidents of abuse, conduct surveys, develop intervention strategies, counsel victims and arrange for legal representation.

Provincial lawyers from the Resource Center and Defenders Project will monitor the sentinels’ work. Sok Sam Oeun says the project will complement the passage of the government’s domestic violence draft law.

“After the draft is passed, we will have a base to start from,” he said.

The draft law is not on the National Assembly’s agenda this term and will likely not be considered until after the national elections scheduled for July 2003, women’s rights advocates said.



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