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Women's political representation still low in Cambodia

Boosting female political representation at July’s national election was the topic of a round-table discussion attended by dozens of political-party representatives, though none from the ruling party, in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Civil-society groups are pushing for women to account for 30 per cent of successful candidates at the poll come July, while the government has long been party to a 2015 UN millennium development goal of 25 per cent of candidates at the commune level and 30 per cent in the National Assembly.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said that although women were increasingly succeeding in business, those interested in politics faced a raft of obstacles, particularly social and family factors.

Virak urged political parties to make the effort to improve female participation.

“Parties always vow to promote women, but they... don’t have any real political incentive, for example, by having quotas for women in politics or by putting women candidates at the top of their priority lists,” he said.

Sonket Sereyleak, co-ordinator for education and gender programs at the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said parties and the government could do more to lift female participation.

“The government has appealed to promote women in politics, but it’s just a verbal promise. It’s not written into election law,” he said.

“Political parties also have no policy to increase their percentage of women. They must encourage their female members to join politics.”

Mu Sochua, of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said her party would not have a self-imposed female quota in the upcoming election, but many of its policies involved and benefited women.

National Election Committee secretary-general Tep Nytha said he supported the idea, but the NEC was bound by election law and political parties were interested only in gaining ballots.

“We encourage parties to have more female candidates, even though there is no law requiring them to do so,” he said.

“But I think each party cares only about results. If they have capable candidates, male or female, they will win.”

Fewer than 20 per cent of commune councillors are women, including 95 commune chiefs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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