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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Women's groups plan march through bars and brothels

Women's groups plan march through bars and brothels

W omen's group's and a state department are planning to join forces next month

and mark International Women's Day with a march through the capital's bars,

nightclubs and brothels.

The State Secretariat for Wo-men's Affairs and

NGO's are organizing the procession on March 8 called "Night Dhamayietra

Walk."

The march is proposed in a document put out by the groups, which

calls on Co Premiers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen to order a one-day

closure of commercial sex outlets.

The document, titled Cambodian Women

Taking Action for Change, also proposes Queen Monineat Sihanouk as the National

Women's Symbol for the day.

Helping to present the document to the press

was the Secretary of State for Women's Affairs Kiet Sokun, who is ironically a

man. He was promoted to the job after the formation of the Royal

Government.

He complained that women are not treated fairly by his sex,

saying, "men never give a green light to women to share opinions to discuss what

is right and what is wrong."

Buddhist monks, nuns, are also expected to

take part in the march which is intended to protest violence against women as

well as to express solidarity with women and children in the sex

industry.

The document says: "The marchers will go through the various

"red-light districts", encouraging sex industry workers to join in rather than

work during that night."

The areas referred to include Tuol Kork

embankment, Svay Pak nicknamed hand-waving village because all the prostitutes

beckon customers and Troloak Bek (broken coconut shell) in central Phnom

Penh.

The media is asked to cover the event by focusing on the social and

economic problems which cause the sex industry to flourish rather than to blame

women for joining it.

The Government proposes to control the sex industry

by ultimately raising standards of living to reduce the financial incentives to

women to become prostitutes.

The document calls on women to actively

take part in the coun-try's reconstruction rather waiting for it to

happen.

"Cambodia can not afford to ignore the strength of its women and

the suffering they have endured for more than two decades," it

says.

Sochua Leiper, president of the women's NGO Khemara and an

organizer of the International Day said that women make up 65 percent of the

country's population. Most of them also have to earn a living as farmers or

factory workers.

The document also raises concerns about the rights women

have been granted in the constitution, pointing out there is not yet a legal

system in place to guarantee them.

It adds that in the past the women's

day celebration used to be perceived as a grant for equal rights "only on that

day and only in the family circle.

"Claiming for equal rights is

rhetorical and vague. Men usually question why women want so many rights," it

says.

The Secretariat for Women wants to see three new departments set

up to protect women's health, their rights and promote their development.

"We will make amendments to the law concerning women in order to narrow

the gap of discrimination between men and women. The Secretariat will combine

all efforts to fight for the sake of our women."

Other action planned

over three days includes visits to women prisoners to monitor conditions and

talks with the Phnom Penh police department to push for the employment of a

special team of women officers to deal with violence and exploitation of

women.

On the following day, Mar 7, NGOs are planning to hold AIDS

prevention classes for prostitutes.

And Mar 8 itself will start religious

ceremonies, including pray-ers dedicated to mothers who died and offerings to

nuns and monks in front of the Royal Palace.

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