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Valentine’s Day rape fears

A woman rearranges roses at a Central Market stall on Valentine’s Day last year in Phnom Penh
A woman rearranges roses at a Central Market stall on Valentine’s Day last year in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Valentine’s Day rape fears

Almost half of the Cambodian men surveyed in a new study about relationships admitted they are willing to engage in non-consensual sex with their female partners this Valentine’s Day if their advances are refused.

Love and Sexual Relationships, a report by independent public health researcher Tong Soprach that will be presented at Khemarak University this morning, draws upon 715 interviews with Phnom Penh males and females aged 15-24.

Among the 376 men surveyed, 47.4 per cent said they would be willing to engage in sexual intercourse without their partner’s consent on February 14 – a figure that has actually fallen by 14 per cent since Soprach undertook a similar study in 2009.

Numerous stories of sexual violence among Cambodians inspired Soprach – who is also a columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition – to investigate how sexual activities and expectations of Cambodian youths change on Valentine’s Day, he said.

“There has been a shift among Cambodian youth from viewing the day as a celebration of love to simply being a catalyst to have sex,” he said.

Expanding sexual health education is vital to addressing sexual behaviour, according to Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development in Cambodia.

“School curriculums should address this more comprehensively but the Ministry of Education may still be too conservative,” she said.

The number of young couples who don’t plan on using contraceptives on Valentine’s Day has doubled from 15.6 per cent in 2009 to 30.2 per cent this year, Soprach’s study found.

While the education ministry unveiled a new sexual and reproductive health curriculum in October, the curriculum is so far being implemented in only five of 24 provinces.

Last year, the ministry urged senior students to practise abstinence on February 14.

This year, local authorities will be monitoring guesthouses throughout the capital, said Chuon Narin, a deputy police commissioner in Phnom Penh.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUN LEAKHANA

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