Domestic violence victim Ho Lida sat on a wooden chair with her mouth bound by scarves Monday to symbolize that the government’s refusal to issue a permit to the Cambodian Committee of Women to convene outside the National Assembly had effectively silenced her.
The Phnom Penh Governor’s Office on May 21 denied Cambow the right to gather more than 200 victims of domestic violence and women’s NGO representatives on the first day of the Assembly’s new session to urge debate on the long-stalled draft domestic violence law.
Municipal Chief of Cabinet Mann Chhoeun said Sunday the permit was denied in order to maintain public security and peace.
“My right is being robbed,” Ho Lida, 44, said Monday at the Phnom Penh office of the Project Against Domestic Violence. “I have no chance to meet my parliamentarians to tell them the truth.”
Ho Lida has been married to her husband since 1994, yet not a day has passed in happiness, she said. Frequently hit by him, Ho Lida said she wanted freedom from violence and was using Cambow to voice her concerns to an unresponsive court system.
Licadho President Kek Galabru criticized the government for its decision to block the group’s assembly and said the domestic violence law must be passed soon because incidents of abuse are rising. “There are increasing victims of domestic violence, and the court system always acquits offenders due to lack of evidence or no law to punish them,” she said.
Parliamentarians met Monday to discuss the draft law and passed the first chapter. The Assembly did not meet Tuesday.
Local human rights group Adhoc recorded 995 domestic violence cases in 2002, compared with 589 cases recorded the year before, said Lim Mony, a representative from Adhoc’s women’s section.
Cambow has been a leader in the fight for the passage of the domestic violence law, which some lawmakers and other women’s groups have criticized for being too vague in its definitions of abuse and for trying to modify traditionally accepted perceptions of marriage in Cambodia.
(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)