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.