S ECOND Prime Minister Hun Sen has criticized a liberal draft law on women's
rights which outlaws sexual discrimination, harassment and domestic
"We must review it," Hun Sen said of the law.
disputed that women needed protection from suppression or harassment by men,
saying: "I don't agree that men suppress women. For my mother, my father treated
her carefully and for me, I treat my wife carefully too.
Khmer at a Secretariat of State for Women's Affairs (SSWA) seminar, Hun Sen
indicated he was sick of such conferences.
"I'm sorry, excellency Keat
Sukun," he said to the Secretary of State for Women's Affairs, "I'm not
attending the women's meetings any more.
"[Women are] always demanding
rights, demanding rights, but gain nothing.
"I have attended many women's
activities... I am tired of listening, because I never treated women badly but I
hear that men treat women badly."
Hun Sen advised women to make
achievements for themselves in reality, not just on paper.
acknowledged that Cambodia had a small number of women in its parliament and
public institutions, but said that even developed countries like the United
States did not have 50 per women in theirs.
He said Cambodia faced
economic challenges to meet the basic needs of its people, and "if this problem
cannot be solved, don't talk about rights".
The draft law, the Cambodian
Women's Code, was prepared by the SSWA along with a draft National Policy for
Women in Cambodia.
The law entrenches a host of rights for women -
including human, labor, marriage and divorce rights - and includes a section
covering crimes against women.
The criminal section provides for jail
sentences of five to 10 years for rape (including incest and marital rape), five
to 10 years for selling or otherwise trafficking in women for prostitution,
seven to ten for brothel running, and penalties for other offenses.
says domestic violence by a husband or his relatives should be dealt with under
the assault, injury, manslaughter or murder provisions of Cambodia's penal
The draft women's law also introduces conditions for women detained
or imprisoned by the authorities, including that their families be notified,
their imprisonment be supervised by female prison officers, and regular medical
care be available for them. Anyone who rapes, molests, sexually harasses or
exploits women in custody should be prosecuted for crimes of torture, it
On women's labor rights, the law says sexual harassment or
exploitation in the workplace should be punishable as crimes.
includes health and safety, and maternity leave, regulations and requires every
workplace with 20 or more female staff to have a "panel of enforcement" on
The law's marriage, divorce and family provisions include
that: joint property cannot be sold without consent of husband and wife; couples
who divorce should split joint property; divorced parents should share the costs
of raising their children; the courts can impose alimony orders on either
parents, and rule on paternity disputes.
Keat Sukun, the Secretary of
State for Women's Affairs, believed the law was positive step. He said it would
be difficult to have women's rights recognized until they were enshrined in
The draft law followed extensive consultation with representatives
of Khmer women's groups and NGO specialists, he said.
Reaction from NGO
staff who attended the seminar on the law was generally positive, though some
expressed concern about some of the jail penalties.
Phoung Sith, director
of the human rights NGO Vigilance generally agreed with the law, but said he
would lobby to have some jail provisions reduced.
Sochua Leiper, of the
Khemara NGO, said precise rape penalties were needed because "if we leave it to
the judge, most of them are men..."
"We are women - maybe nothing will be
fair because they are all men, judges and police."