Valentine’s Day has become a popular event among Cambodian youths who see the holiday as an opportunity to show their affection for others, while some civil society groups said yesterday they were using the annual holiday to educate youths about relationships and sexual health.
Chan Malan, a 19-year-old student, was selling a bouquet of five roses for $8 on Sihanouk Boulevard in Chamkar Mon district for those who marked the primarily Western holiday yesterday.
She said the holiday was popular among her peers. “Many of them buy gifts for their friends and sweethearts to show their affection for each other, because they are learning about and adopting Western culture,” she said.
Prum Seila, a 22-year-old film student, said many students celebrated the holiday with flowers and small parties at restaurants. “I have learned that Valentine’s Day means the Day of Love. It’s meant to be a beautiful day celebrated by the youths,” he said.
However, he added: “Among this generation some youths lose their virginity at the event of Valentine’s Day because they misunderstand the meaning of the Day of Love,” he said, adding he thought it would be a good idea if NGO’s involved in reproductive health would promote safe sex on the day.
Che Katz, program director of one such NGO, Marie Stopes International, said yesterday that the organization had sent out several teams in Phnom Penh to be on the streets and near garment factories over the weekend to hand out condoms and hold small question-and-answer games to promote openness about relationships and sex.
Popular television and movie starlet Chorn Chanlekhena, who acts as Marie Stopes’ Goodwill Ambassador, said Valentine’s Day was a good occasion to discuss relationships with intimate friends and family.
“Our youth love to celebrate the event…to be open with their parents [about their relations]” she said, “They are brave to tell their lovers [about their feelings].”
Samoeun Chan Intal, director of My FM 99.5 Radio, said many young Cambodians did not understand the holiday’s true meaning. Her radio station was, “correcting the misunderstanding over the holiday” and preventing youths from “giving up their virginity” with the slogan: “Lasting love must wait.”