Cambodian fathers and youth were deemed the country’s best hopes for a future with fewer rapes and higher standards of sexual safety, said university student participants in a debate Monday at the University of Technology in Phnom Penh.
University students exchanged ideas with Ministry of Women’s Affairs officials, the Cambodian Men’s Network and NGO workers about how best to curb sexual abuse. The debate winner targeted youth and father figures as agents of change because they often determine standards of behavior for peer groups or family members.
“I think the father is the best example for his children. If the father is a good human, his children will have a good guide to lead [their own] family,” said debate winner Phat Dararath, a Royal University of Phnom Penh student.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs recorded 297 rape cases in 2002, 23 percent of which involved victims between 4 and 10 years old, according to ministry Undersecretary of State Um Chenda. Thirty percent of the victims were between the ages of 11 and 14.
Students noted that since fathers often have more authority in their households, they should set high standards of respect for women and not tolerate sexual abuse.
Debaters also noted concerns over growing numbers of gang rapes and called for youth to reform their attitudes toward sex, drugs and violence.
“Youth is a vital target for getting rid of sexual abuse,” said Menh Navy, a Gender and Development for Cambodia advocacy manager.
Menh Navy said prostitutes forced to have sex with multiple partners in one setting are victims of sexual abuse.
Another debater, University of Technology student Prek Viboth, said attitudes will not change until perpetrators are punished.
“Compensation is not justice for rape victims. Offenders should be punished too,” he said.