Femal victims of domestic violence in Cambodia are frequently unable to escape their suffering because they are financially dependent on their husbands, a report released on Sunday reveals.
The preliminary report, titled Domestic Violence Law, by researchers Katherine Brickell, a specialist on gender at the University of London, and Bunnak Poch from Phnom Penh’s Western University, shows that victims are suffering from poor implementation of the domestic violence law, introduced in 2005.
Reasons for the gap between legislation and practice include discriminatory attitudes towards gender, weak rule of law and insufficient resources to support training, implementation and enforcement of the law, the report says.
Economic factors also play a part in the domestic violence law not being implemented.
“Men’s predominant income-earning remains the norm, especially in rural sites,” the report says, adding there are often “strong economic reasons for [women] remaining in an abusive relationship”.
Researchers surveyed 1,177 men and women in Siem Reap and Pursat provinces. Results showed 81 per cent of women believe that “wives should remain silent about domestic violence to keep the family together”, compared with 75 per cent of men.
Weak law enforcement and legal protection were also failing to protect abused women, Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development in Cambodia, said.
“When the domestic violence law was adopted in 2005, the law and the Cambodian social mindset were not yet aligned. Cambodian society still believes domestic violence is a private issue, and not enough was done to raise awareness among the courts and authorities,” she said.
Women required more legal support from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and community-wide policing capable of responding quickly, she added.
“Only the courts have a true say in building a case if it’s properly reported by police – if women only have counselling at the community level and no protection from authorities, of course they will drop the case.”
Sivann Botum, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said outreach was already being administered.
“We go to each commune to talk with women about their legal rights and explain how to file complaints,” Botum said.
But according to opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua, a former minister of women’s affairs, domestic violence continues plaguing women because of a lack of political will to address the issue head-on.
“If you want to file a complaint, you have to deal with authorities that demand money and court officials that are rarely sensitive to the feelings of victims,” Sochua said.
Instead of going to authorities, Nin, 40, filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc in Pursat province last year, seeking intervention and a divorce after her husband nearly beat her to death.
“Now I raise and support my children by myself. I did it for my children. I didn’t want them to see this violence,” she said.