Fluorescent-clad dancers, television presenters, youth group members and nuns holding
candles attended a concert in Phnom Penh on November 30 to be told that it was up
to men to take responsibility for ending violence against women and children.
The concert was organized by the Cambodian Men's Network (CMN) in cooperation with
the Ministry of Women's and Veterans' Affairs (MoWVA). It is part of a 16-day campaign
to stop violence against women.
CMN facilitator Chhay Kim Sore told the Post that mobilizing men to change their
behavior was crucial.
"Men are the people who hold the power traditionally in Cambodia and if the
men change, we can solve the problem of domestic violence," said Kim Sore. "If
a man beats his wife, it is [seen as] no problem, but if the wife beats her husband
or tries to educate him, society does not accept that."
Minister of Women's Affairs, Mu Sochua, addressed the 600-strong crowd, more than
half of whom were men. She explained there were three kinds of violence against women
and children: trafficking, domestic violence and rape, and said they were unacceptable.
"Every day we know, we hear, we see even more clearly what domestic violence
is," Sochua said. "Every day we see, we know, we hear the raping of women
... we see that Cambodian women are forced to be prostitutes."
Sochua said as men were responsible for abuse, it was up to them to stop the mistreatment
of women and children.
"I would like to suggest to men - please do not violate these women ... or think
that they are not valuable," she said. Later she added that success would require
"a strong voice" from different sections of the community across the nation.
Many men also spoke out against domestic violence at the concert. Meng Pho, 39, a
farmer from Kandal province and a member of CMN, said he had experienced violence
and abuse from his father since he was a small boy.
"My father used to hit my mother and me and the other children, and I didn't
know why he did that," Pho told the Post. "It is not a good action and
society hates domestic violence. It made my family poor and the neighbors didn't
like it. I saw my father hit our family, so after I got married I [made sure I] did
not hit my wife," he said, adding that although such violence was common, it
"I want the [draft domestic violence] law that will stop violence against women
and children to be put strongly into practice. Also the government should tell people
about the law, including those in distant provinces."
The draft domestic violence law is on the agenda for the National Assembly's current
three month session, which ends February 25. But it contains some controversial clauses,
including one that NGOs claim appears to legalize rape within marriage.
However MoWVA said that marital rape was covered under the draft law.
Government statistics show that nearly one-quarter of women between 15-49 who have
been married, have suffered physical abuse.
The concert was part of the international white-ribbon campaign that runs from November
25 to December 10.