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Domestic abuse in focus

Although laws to deal with violence against women were in place, lax enforcement was stymieing efforts to reduce it, rights workers told a conference on women’s issues in the capital yesterday.

Ny Chakrya, head of monitoring at rights group Adhoc, praised Cambodia’s laws against gender-based violence, but said they were ineffective because they were not enforced.  “If we have the law in place and institutions to enforce the law, then why are we continuing to see problems with violence against women?” he said. “It’s like we have the soldiers, but we don’t have the weapons,” he explained.

Ny Chakrya also said that a lack of enforcement of laws to protect women from violence was causing rates of violence against women to rise. This contradicted data from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs that showed a decline in domestic violence. Khiev Serey Vuthea, director general for social development at the ministry, told the conference that domestic violence rates had fallen from 15 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2005. The ministry also reported last year that rates of domestic violence had fallen to 6 percent by 2009.

Ny Chakrya dispute these figures, saying there were low because local authorities do not forward all the complaints of domestic violence they receive to the ministry.

Adhoc’s data showing a rise in violence against women is more accurate because it comes directly from individual victims and is not filtered, he said. “We receive four to five times the number of cases as the ministry does.”

A lack of trust in state institutions also resulted in fewer complaints to the ministry, he said. “The relevant institutions aren’t trusted. Women who are victims find it difficult to seek public services so that’s why more complaints are received by NGOs.”

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