Reading The Phnom Penh Post today, I just found an article on the proposed imposition of a female curfew, restricting the movement of Cambodian girls after 9pm, with the Phnom Penh Municipality aiming to promote good morals in Cambodian society.
Being a Cambodian citizen, I felt very sad to see such a thing happening in this century. I would like this message to reach out to the public and the people who have proposed such an incredible rule to restrict the movement of Cambodian girls, and to let them know that this rule cannot be applied for people who live in the 21st century. There are many ways of promoting good morals: through education; economic, social and cultural development; and through the media.
I completely understand the intention of the municipality in proposing such a law: to prevent the vulnerability of children to rape, sexual harassment and trafficking. However, Cambodia has its own criminal law to control the increase in crime rates in relation to rape, sexual abuse and human trafficking, and it is the obligation of the state to protect its own population.
If law enforcement was functioning properly, these kind of things would never happen, and the municipality would not actually need to adopt any new rule depriving the rights of movement of girls, which is totally against the spirit of the Constitution of Cambodia. Articles 31 and 32 of the document clearly state that every Khmer citizen has the right to life, personal freedom and security.
Instead of creating this new rule, the municipality should come up with measures to control criminals and to strengthen the existing laws as a way of ensuring the protection of the rights of Cambodian citizens. They should have an alternative programme for incorporating moral instruction into the education system, so that every citizen can decide what they want. I used to see this rule in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the country, and I can’t believe this is happening in my own country.
There are many instances in other parts of the world where you can see that morality assumes a less important role, when people are fighting or struggling to get food on their plate. They can’t think about good morals if they are faced with the need to survive. In this sense, the government has to empower people through the education system and to provide an adequate social security system rather than enforcing a new rule against the fundamental rights of Cambodian citizens.
In short, I wanted to say that “good morals” can only take place when people are educated and have enough to eat.
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The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.