Views on Adultery Law Reveal Battle of the Sexes

On the streets of Phnom Penh Sunday, opinions on a new law that would criminalize adultery were nearly unanimous: Women thought it was a great idea. Men said it’s a terrible one.

The National Assembly passed the law Friday, proscribing penalties of up to a year in prison for those who engage in extramarital af­fairs.

Hawking fruit next to the Chak­tomuk Theater Sunday, Sum Porn, 28, said she and most of her friends greeted the news with en­thusiasm. But she added: “We are still not sure if our husbands will stay loyal be­cause we cannot watch them 24 hours.”

It was a sentiment heard often Sunday.

A 19-year-old female CD vendor near NagaCorp casino who would give her name only as Dy, said that although she is not married, she believes the law will help create more harmonious marriages.

She said the law would probably most affect men, as they are more likely to go out at night.

Most men agreed, complaining the law could be abused, and condemning it as an affront to their basic freedoms.

“Men will be the victims,” said photographer Leng Kom Chhoeu­rug, 43, adding that jealous and paranoid wives may file complaints even if husbands have done nothing wrong.

“Sexual desire can not be prevented and men cannot always have just one partner,” motorbike taxi driver Kim Ly, 38, argued.

Kim Ly said he fears the law will be selectively used to target the poor while the rich will be able to carry on affairs with impunity.

Word of the draconian new law has already spread into the prov­inces, according to Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San. Khieu San said his constituents in Kandal province complained the law is too extreme.

It was met with particular scorn by boat racers planning to converge on Phnom Penh in Novem­ber for the annual Water Festival. Many are displeased with the law be­­cause they hope to sleep with prostitutes during their visit, he said.

Sek Barisoth, anti-corruption co­ordinator for the NGO PACT Cam­bo­dia, said that he was surprised that the Assembly passed two laws he considers to be unimportant within days but have still not voted on the long-awaited anti-corruption law. On Wednesday, the Assembly passed a law curtailing the rights of lawmakers to speak freely in parliament.

Sek Barisoth said the anti-corruption law, which has been more than a decade in the making, is essentially finished. No more time is needed to get it to the floor for a vote, he said, adding that he believes the delay is the result of “political intent rather than any technical problems.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap countered that the draconian morality law is necessary to protect Cambodians from the negative influence of foreign culture.

In foreign countries “wives and husbands always have lovers when their spouse is busy for a few days,” he said.

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