Women Affairs Ministry Speaks Out Against Violence

Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi yesterday pledged more help for female victims of abuse and violence, announcing that the government was planning by 2012 to establish centers where abused women can find comprehensive assistance.

“We still continue combating and punishing the perpetrators. However, we also would like to have a look at the victims,” she said on the sidelines of a launch event for a guidebook for women on their legal rights.

“Asking them to go here to hospital, then to another area for legal counseling, after that to a lawyer, after that for social services to another NGO, is a very traumatizing process.”

A national database is also being designed to unify statistics on violent crimes against women from the police, courts and NGOs, she said, noting that research was also being planned to deepen understanding of changing forms of rape. “[T]he concern is that rapes are more brutal,” she said. “Secondly perpetrators and victims are younger.”

The government trains police officers to deal with violence against women and hopes to increase the number of policewomen, she said. “We need more awareness among all people including law enforcers.”

Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, said that official reports show domestic violence remains acceptable in Cambodian society, while media and reports from local authorities point to an increase in rape, especially of young girls.

“The effort the government must make to reduce violence is to implement the law,” she said.

The Khmer-language guidebook launched yesterday is aimed at women and local leaders, detailing women’s legal rights and where to find help. “In rural areas there is a lack of information on where to access services,” said Chim Manavy, director of the Open Institute, an NGO that collaborated with the Women’s Affairs Ministry on the book. “The women’s guidebook fulfills this pressing need for information on the law and services.”

As part of a 16-day international campaign against gender violence ending Friday, Ms Kantha Phavi also addressed about 500 female beer promoters yesterday morning.

Sharon Wilkinson, country director of NGO Care International, said that the event aimed to change attitudes about the harassment of beer promoters. “It was to say to the women, it is your right not to be harassed in the workplace,” she said.


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