Sar Kheng Pledges New Laws to Protect Women

The government will ensure women’s rights through preventative and protective measures in addressing sex trafficking, rape and domestic violence, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said Thurs­day during the last day of a women’s affairs conference.

“I am ready to promote the training of special police forces to investigate and res­pond to violence against women,” Sar Kheng told conferees at “Looking Back, Looking Forward.”

The government recognizes the un­equal political, economic and social circumstances that Cam­bodian women faced during more than two decades of armed conflicts, Sar Kheng said.

To improve the status of women, he said the budget of the Ministry of Women and Veter­ans’ Affairs will be doubled by 2000, and further increases are expected.

The government also plans to build dormitories to promote girls participation in higher education.

Sar Kheng said another measure is supporting literacy and informational programs to educate women about their rights.

He also encouraged women to participate in the upcoming communal elections to increase the number of females in decision-making roles.

Conference participants, which included women leaders, NGOs, government officials and others, also presented a draft platform for action to promote the status of women.

The platform called on the government to provide women with agricultural training, monitor the equitable access to projects addressing food security, and balance economic growth with environmental and social costs.

The draft also noted that girls are at a disadvantage when it comes to access to education. The platform said the government needs to have the political will to ensure women have equal access to education, and recommended that 15 percent of the national budget should be allocated to education.

“Cambodian women constitute 53 percent of the national population, yet in every sphere…their share of the decision-making power to effect genuine and lasting changes to their status and livelihood is negligible,” the platform said.

On health issues, the platform said basic obstetric emergency services at the commune level need to be strengthened and information about reproductive health should be provided to adolescents.

To prevent violence against women, the platform suggested the government set up a National Council of Cambodian Women that would establish programs to advance the status of women.

The draft also called on the government to approve clear laws about domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.

The issue of prostitution was discussed during a conference panel in the morning.

Chan Dyna, a representative of the Women’s Union at Tuol Kok Dam, an advocacy group for sex workers, said prostitution should be legalized because it would help the government control the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Mop Sarin, a senior Phnom Penh municipal official, said an effort to close down brothels has not been successful in stopping prostitution.

Chan Dyna said closing down brothels does not improve the situation.

“It severely affects the human rights and freedom of women who are prostitutes,” she said.

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