As International Women’s Day is marked around the world on Saturday, calls are being made for more rehabilitative opportunities to be made available to female prisoners in Cambodia and, separately, for cultural norms that rank women below men to be challenged and overcome.
Local rights group Licadho, which monitors 18 prisons around the country, said authorities need to implement “a broader range of rehabilitation opportunities to build confidence and provide them with appropriate skills to find suitable employment once released.”
“Female prisoners currently make up 8 percent of the total prison population in Cambodia yet, in many prisons, educational and vocational training opportunities for women and girls remain inadequate,” Licadho said in a statement, noting that by the end of 2013 there were 1,137 women incarcerated and 15 girls aged 17 or below, while there were 11 pregnant women and 38 children in prisons by the end of January.
“Female juveniles in particular should have the right, equivalent to male juveniles, to receive vocational training which will equip them for future employment.”
Nget Sokhun, Licadho’s prison project supervisor, said most of the vocational training classes in prison cater toward carpentry and mechanics.
In a statement, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights noted “some progress toward gender equality” in Cambodia both economically and in the family home.
However, it said, “this progress has been undermined by the endurance of cultural norms that firmly place women at a lower status than men and perpetuate discrimination against women.”
Women are underrepresented at the executive and legislative levels of power and “continue to face widespread discrimination in education, employment, health care and the judicial system, issues which are compounded by troublingly high rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse,” CCHR said.
“Women make up over half of the population, yet they remain underrepresented in all sectors of Cambodian society,” CCHR President Ou Virak said. “Only when women are offered the same opportunities as men, will we see significant change in the human rights situation in Cambodia.”
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