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Arranged marriages not rape

Ray Johansen's assertion that rape was "commonplace" under KR is nonsense (Phnom Penh Post Feb 25-Mar 10, 2005).

The general perception was: "you do this, you die". This applied most strictly to KR cadres/soldiers as they were supposed to be versed in the Party's 12-article Code of Conduct. Not only was rape a serious crime, but also having sex outside marriage was also prohibited, rumored to carry the death penalty.

That said, like any society, occasional rape did happen, but it was not state-sanctioned conduct. The strict system in place - female mobile brigades chaired by women, daily self- and other-critiquing meetings etc. - restricted such conduct.

Forcing complete strangers to marry each other is well-spread unchecked rumor. It was not the Communist Party's policy/directions that people were forced to marry against their will. In fact, this was prohibited. But in practice, in some cases, pressure might have been exerted on an unwilling party.

The mass wedding, though, was implied in the policy on cutting material costs and time, which caused general unhappiness. Marrying war-handicapped with non-handicapped arguably could be called "forced marriage". But generally, and before the marriage, the non-handicapped were emotionally and ideologically trained to value the handicapped and their heroic sacrifices. People had to be convinced that the marriage was based on value and not on wealth and social status before the marriage occurred.

Case in point: PM Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany. Without being convinced of his heroic and revolutionary values, the Sino-Rany's marriage, which took place in a mass wedding of 13 couples, to the half-blinded man was unlikely.

In the latter case, call it "forced" marriage if it makes one happy, or call it "arranged" marriage under the age-old Khmer tradition. Only the DK rationale was different. Traditionally, Khmer parents arranged marriage for the daughter's future. Under DK, the "forced" marriage was an ideological pursuit of social equality in that the most unfortunate were not to be overlooked or discriminated by the society

While I am no fan of forced/arranged marriage, such marriage is not a euphemism for rape.

Let's stop spreading unchecked rumors.

Bora Touch, Sydney, Australia



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