Recently, the governor of Phnom Penh expressed his intention to ban girls under the age of 16 from going out alone after 9pm ["Girls' curfew proposed", August 28]. His intention is to promote good morals, but I see two problems.
Firstly, prohibiting girls from going out at night deprives them of their rights to education, mobility and free will. Some girls seen out on the streets at night may be on their way home from evening classes or work. This would suggest the governor's proposal is at odds with the gender equality the government claims to be trying to achieve. If the governor wants to stop underage girls from visiting inappropriate venues at night, there are alternative solutions.
Firstly, nightclub rules should be properly enforced. If clubs are supposed to be open only to people aged 18 or over, the authorities should monitor them closely to ensure those rules are adhered to.
Secondly, there should be a better social infrastructure for children. Where city development or beautification is concerned, governors should establish more public spaces and parks where children can have their own entertainment zones. There are very few such places at the moment, but the number of nightclubs and casinos continues to rise. The police should focus on protecting children from harm, not penalising them for having fun.
Finally, morality should be rooted in the education system, not handed down via government directives or prohibition. There should be programmes to teach children good morals and behaviour from an early age. Parents should also take responsibility. City Hall's role should be cooperating with the Ministry of Education to improve overall standards of behaviour among children.
International University of Japan
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