Report Says Domestic Violence Laws Flawed

The NGO coalition Cambodian Committee of Women released on Sunday a report on laws addressing domestic violence, rape, marriage and human trafficking as part of the launch of a 16-day campaign to bring attention to violence against women.

Released to mark the Inter­na­tional Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women held Sunday worldwide, the report asks lawmakers to amend Cambodian laws to meet the terms of the Con­vention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which Cambodia ratified in 1992.

“After carefully researching the very laws that are supposed to protect these women, CAMBOW found that in fact, these laws implicitly and explicitly discriminate against women,” said Kek Gala­bru, president of Licadho and the coalition’s president, in a press release.

According to Sam Monika, deputy director of law and social development at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, cultural attitudes more than lax laws play a role in violence against women. “The laws are good but men do not recognize the value of wo­men,” she said. “And the au­thorities seem careless in implementing [the laws].”

The report claims that, under the current rape law, judges tend to look for evidence of serious injury and may ignore cases in which victims are subdued by threats of violence. “The law makes ‘cruelty, coercion and surprise’ the defining elements of rape, not the absence of consent,”  the report contends.

While calling the Law on Mar­riage and Family “comprehensive,” the report says that divorce procedures could work against women divorcing abusive husbands.

Sam Monika said that shame was a major factor in Cambodian women’s reluctance to report violence against them, adding that divorcing an abusive husband is difficult for women with no means of supporting a family

“We are now paying attention to that and are cooperating with the relevant NGOs,” she said.

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