Cambodian youths in both rural and urban areas have increasingly liberal ideas about sexual experimentation and drug and alcohol use, but oftentimes are too poor or do not trust staff at clinics to access public sexual and reproductive health services, according to a report issued jointly by the UN Population Fund and the European Commission.
The report titled “Torn Between Tradition and Desire: Young People in Cambodia Today,” examines the attitudes of young Cambodians toward a variety of reproductive health issues, and how those attitudes influence whether they can access health services.
“Groups of both sexes agreed that it was natural for young people to want to have sweethearts and experiment with sex,” the report said.
It was generally understood among the Cambodians interviewed for the report that girls risked damaging their reputations if they didn’t start relationships with young men, while men said that a girlfriend “provides company, is a person to share sweet words with, increase the likelihood of having sex and is someone who looks after them,” the report said.
The subjects interviewed also said they recreationally used drugs and alcohol.
“Young people were surprisingly honest when asked about what makes them happy…. They described how having sex, getting drunk and taking drugs also gives them pleasure,” the report said.
According to the report, Cambodian youths in both rural and urban areas have trouble accessing public health facilities, although problems such as lack of transportation or loss of income from work for medical purposes is exacerbated for young people in rural areas.
Youths interviewed expressed a keen distrust of local health services in rural areas because the services are often poor, the report said.
“Examples are commonly cited of government services where no medicines are available and the quality of treatment is poor and dangerous,” the report said.
“Participants reported that staff are often disinterested in young people, particularly if they have little or no money.”