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Forum aims to lower domestic violence rates

Srey Mom used to blame herself for the lashings her husband inflicted on her. The first time, her husband beat her with a bamboo pole so badly it left her bleeding. She told neighbours she had fallen down the stairs. Within months, the beatings became more frequent – and violent. But it was only when he started beating their children that she left.

“It was time for me to be strong for my children,” Srey Mom told advocates with rights group Licadho.

Srey Mom’s story, detailed in a Licadho report on violence against women, may be her own, but it is far from unique.

A 2008 report from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs suggests that between one-fifth and one-quarter of all women in Cambodia have experienced domestic violence. Government and NGO officials are preparing to meet next week in Siem Reap for the Asia-Pacific Conference on Primary Prevention of Violence against Women and Children, a forum focused on ways to reduce the sobering statistic.

“People are starting to recognise the violence,” said Chhay Kim Sore, a coordinator with the Cambodian Men’s Network. “Before, people thought domestic violence was a private matter. Now, they’re starting to realise it’s a crime.”

Next week’s conference will focus specifically on prevention – coming up with strategies aimed at instilling a culture in which violence against women is unacceptable. “We need to change the concept for the younger generation,” said Chhay Kim Sore.

The conference will coincide with a 16-day awareness campaign aimed at tackling the subject online.

Open Institute’s “Take Back the Tech” campaign recognises that many of the presumed triggers for violence against women may be found online.

“There are porn videos via the Internet and via mobile phones, so we want to grab their attention so they can instead contribute to eradicating violence against women,” said Prak Sokhayouk, the group's project coordinator.

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