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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Action plan needed

Action plan needed

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Eighty per cent of beer promotion workers have experienced unwanted sexual touching in the workplace, a report says. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

As Cambodia marks International Women’s Day, a UN official has noted the importance of addressing workplace violence and harassment in the country’s National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women.

Vorn Veth, UN Women program co-ordinator of the End Violence Against Women program, told the Post: “[Employers have to be encouraged] to take steps to prevent, and respond to, sexual harassment.

“Strategies that employers need to put in place include having a procedure or a policy to deal with harassment.

“New employees need to be made aware that the policy exists and that all employees are accountable to upholding the policy and adhering to it.”

National Bank of Cambodia director-general Sokha Ngoun said she supported addressing such issues in the workplace.

“Our management is very aware of women’s rights and gender issues. The best way to protect women from harassment at their workplace is a good education, and that’s what we provide to our employees,” Ngoun said.

So far, few studies have examined the issue of sexual harassment in the Cambodian economy, outside of the garment sector and entertainment establishments.

In 2009, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs found one in 10 garment workers had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. That number rose to four in five for beer promotion workers.

Eighty per cent of beer promotion workers had experienced unwanted sexual touching, and 38 per cent had been coerced into performing a sexual act in the workplace.

A recent report from the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, designed by the NGO FHI 360 and UNICEF, recommends the government focus on girls’ education.

According to UN figures from late 2011, between 30 and 40 per cent of women in the Asia-Pacific region experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact, verbal suggestions or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.

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