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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sex discrimination discussed

Sex discrimination discussed

Ajoint delegation of government officials and NGO representatives returned this

week from New York, where they met with a United Nations committee to report on

the country's progress in reducing gender discrimination.

The Committee

on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), made up of 23 experts

from around the world, monitors compliance with the provisions set out in the

convention of the same name.

This was the first submission Cambodia had

made to the Committee since the Kingdom ratified the Convention in 1992.

"It's been a very valuable experience for both the government and the

NGO delegation," said UNIFEM Acting Country Coordinator Ingrid

FitzGerald.

"For the first time, Cambodia had an opportunity to discuss

its anti-discrimination projects, to recognize its achievements in an

international context, and to draw on the knowledge and expertise of this

panel."

The commission applauded the recent implementation of legislation

against domestic violence, but encouraged the government to push ahead with a

planned information campaign on the new law. The Minister of Women's Affairs,

Ing Kantha Phavi, agreed this was vital for the de facto functioning of the law.

"We have to ensure women see domestic violence as a crime."

Another major

issue concerned the role in the school curriculum of Chhbap Srey, or the

customary women's code of conduct. According to head of the NGO delegation, Ros

Sopheap, the code contains such recommendations as "When the man uses violence,

you must accept it, and not use any means to protect yourself", and "Do not take

marital disputes outside the house."

The code still holds sway in

Cambodia, particularly in rural areas, and such provisions stop women from

reporting incidents of domestic violence.

"The women's code of conduct is

an obstacle to development for women," Kantha Phavi told reporters. However, she

said the code is not a "package lesson to memorize" but a part of Khmer culture

to be analysed and adapted rather than thrown out completely.

"Chhbap

Srey is a customary law, so we can therefore revise and modify any out-of-date

aspects which prevent people from actively participating in societal

development," Phavi said. "We need to review the curriculum, and ensure teachers

give a thorough explanation of both the men's and women's codes to ensure a

progressive understanding of gender among our students."

The delegation

expects to receive a report from the commission in two to three weeks,

containing detailed concluding comments about the issues discussed, and

recommendation for what needs to be addressed most urgently.

Kantha

Phavi said that, while much has been achieved over the past five years, the

government recognizes its weaknesses in this area and would work hard to

implement the committee's suggestions.

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