The governor of Phnom Penh seems to have stirred up quite a hornet's nest in suggesting that girls under the age of 16 should be subject to a curfew after 9pm. Yet perhaps this proposal is worth further consideration, at least in certain zones.
Anyone can see there has been a growth in entertainment facilities aimed at a young Cambodian clientele in recent months. When facilities attract young men, they also, by their very nature, attract girls too, some of whom are quite young, even though they may look older. The definition of a child can vary from country to country, but it is generally accepted that anyone under the age of 16 is a child and will therefore be subject to special conditions and restrictions on their movement. For example, many countries insist that children should go to school rather than work or roam the streets and place responsibility squarely with parents to make sure this happens.
An extreme libertarian may object to any restriction, suggesting it is an abuse of human rights, but I think most people would take the view that, given the vulnerability of children, it is a wise move. It is also a common view that boys, although they may be vulnerable too, are not vulnerable to the same degree or in the same way as girls in and around certain kinds of places. The idea of providing more activities for children is a sensible one and much needed, but it would not deal with the issue the governor raises.
On the whole, the curfew proposal appears to be aimed at protection rather than taking an authoritarian stance on morals. There will be grey areas, of course, and these would need to be considered before any directive was issued. A curfew would not address the daytime situation outlined by Borei Sylyvann (Letters, September 2), but it would at least send a message that the matter was being taken seriously. I am sure some girls, anxious for the bright lights, will bridle at the idea, but the right time to sing "K'nyom ayoo dop bram moi" is on a 16th birthday.
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