Rights group Adhoc recorded 131 rape cases in the first six months of the year, compared to 80 cases in 2014—a nearly 64 percent increase—due to the influence of “uncontrolled foreign cultures” such as pornography, according to a report released by the NGO on Wednesday.
The report says that 100 of those cases involved the rape of a minor: 63 cases in which the victim was between 10 and 18 years old, 32 cases in which the victim was between 5 and 10, and five cases in which the victim was younger than 5.
Among the 131 total cases were also 15 cases in which the victim was disabled, six involving multiple perpetrators, and three in which the victim was killed in the process.
“[The] root cause for the increase in rape cases was the influence by ‘uncontrolled foreign cultures’ (i.e. uncontrolled access to pornography available on the Internet, social media or sold on markets),” Adhoc said in an accompanying statement.
“This absence of restricted access [to pornography] imposed by the government leads persons, who in many cases are under the influence of drugs or are intoxicated, to engage in acts of rape,” it said.
Contacted by telephone Wednesday, Adhoc president Thun Saray said that easy access to pornography was one among several factors responsible for the increase in recorded rape cases, but an important one.
“Uncontrolled pornography, and drugs and alcohol use by people…is the main cause of the rapes,” he said, adding that a high male-to-female ratio in the countryside and the widely held misconception that girls under the age of 18 do not carry sexually transmitted diseases also contributed to the problem.
Chak Sopheap, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that blaming pornography for rape was oversimplifying the issue.
“I would not see it as a key factor. At the end of the day it is a [matter of] personal responsibility,” she said. “Some people blame alcohol: ‘alcohol leads to rape’ and ‘alcohol leads to traffic accidents.’ Of course this is a factor, but it’s the men’s responsibility.”
Ms. Sopheap said that impunity was likely the main reason for the increase in Adhoc’s rape figures.
“It makes the perpetrator think that they can let it go,” she said, noting that many rapes go unreported due to the tendency of communities to stigmatize the victims.
“I would call it double victimization, because first they are raped and then they are mistreated and told it was their fault.”
In its statement—which also addressed domestic violence, sex trafficking and forced marriage —Adhoc said that the ministries of interior and women’s affairs had failed to establish a “Women and Children’s Rights Committee”—as promised—to reduce violence against women.
“[S]uch a committee has not yet been put in place, as there is a clear lack of capacity and ability to assist victims of gender-based violence,” the statement said.
Contacted Wednesday, Women’s Affairs Ministry spokesman Phon Puthborey declined to answer questions about the committee over the telephone and ignored a question about it in an email, instead providing information about the ministry’s internal structure, ongoing programs and funding.