The sound of verbal arguments and physical violence have not been heard coming from the home of Tiep Rorm in Siem Reap provincial Leang Dai commune’s Ploung village for almost one year since they participated in the education programme of Transcultural Psychological Organisation. TPO focuses on reducing domestic violence.
“I learned to curb my anger, to understand consequences and I think it wastes time and has no benefits at all. I felt sorry for what I did before,” said Tiep Rorm, 40. His wife and his wife Mart Rorn, 38, said: “The violence happened sometimes because of me too. But after joining the workshop my husband and I now know a lot about the cause of violence. Now my family’s living condition are better than before.”
Being the poorest of the provinces, Siem has the highest incidence of domestic violence throughout Cambodia, according to the report from Project Against Domestic Violence and local human rights groups. Several organisations including PADV, Banteay Srey, TPO, Cambodian Women Crisis Center (CWCC), and local human rights groups Adhoc and Licadho have been working to reduce domestic violence in Siem Reap and other provinces and to raise awareness amongst rural people.
According to the village chiefs in Ankor Thom district where people throughout the area have been educated on the issue, the number of violence cases has decreased since the organisations held workshops with the people on domestic violence.
“People are uneducated and do not respect each other. When the drunken husband comes home they have a verbal argument and beating happens, but now they understand each other,” said Ploung Village Chief Pov Dun, adding that every three months, the organisations go to meet people and educate them on how to deal with domestic violence. However, he said that some people still commit violence even though they have been educated by the organisations.
“Some villagers do not want to come for the meeting. They do not want to listen,” he said.
A 29-year-old Kong Saim with 4 children, who often goes to the meetings with her husband said that her husband is still physically abusive toward her. “Yesterday, he was drunk and he beat me. He beats me nearly every day. Now the police have arrested him,” she said.
Duong Chhorm, Leang Dai village chief, said that there has been a reduction of violence after the organisations came to educate the people. He explained that though some people go to the meeting, they still commit violence.
“They are always drunk when they beat their wives and children,” he said.
With 8 children under her control, Mao Kut, 48, who lives in Leang Dai village said that her family had experienced violence for nearly 10 years, but now they can live a life without violence. “We talk with each other. He drinks normal without using violence,” she said.
TPO has been working in Siem Reap for more than one year in six villages in Leang Dai commune by educating the authorities and the victims, as well as providing a counselling service to the people. According to figures given by TPO, 302 cases of violence in the six villages occured in 2010 and during the four months from January to May of this year, there have been 68 cases of violence reported.
Khek Valine, the TPO counsellor, said that his organisation set up the Empowering Women’s Rights Project which has helped to decrease incidences of violence. “They changed their behaviour of committing violence by discussing problems when they have them. They speak good words to each other.”
PADV has one 4-year programme called Family Protection Network Program which was completed last year. Oem Phally, the program coordinator of PADV in Siem Reap, said that his programme raised awareness for the people by training the local authorities and educating people who have experienced family violence.
“Before, the authorities ignored the people. So, we went directly to the families who suffered from the violence in order to educate them. We hope that they will be model families for others,” he said.
Domestic violence exists in four forms including physical, mental, sexual and economic abuse, according to Oem Phally. There are two main factors that lead to domestic violence. The first is a feeling of hopelessness due to lack of education, poverty and alcohol abuse. This leads to frustration and a feeling of a lack of power which can cause the patriarch of the family to assert his dominance in a violent way.
Ren Samphors, the Violence coordinator of Banteay Srei organisation who has been working in Siem Reap on domestic violence since 2007 on the project of Women Empowerment said that, “We have succeeded a lot. The women are courageous to discuss the issue with other people. They know about their rights and the law.”
CWCC is also one organisation working to help women who are abused since 2001 by providing counselling and protection shelters for them and conducting programmes to educate the people.
Ket Noeun, manager of Cambodian Women Crisis Centre based in Siem Reap province, said that the number of cases of domestic violence that come to her organisation decreased by 10 percent compared to last year, only 155 cases for 2010.
“It is difficult to change them since they have the habit of drinking and beating their wives and children,” she said, adding: “My organisation will spread information and educate people who have suffered from domestic violence.”
The Ministry of Interior has conducted one program called Village Commune Safety since 2010 which also focuses on domestic violence in order to allow police to take more actions to combat domestic violence and other ills.
Meurn Pich, the deputy police chief in Angkor district, said that the number of domestic violence cases had decreased since the government began the programme.
“They lack the knowledge, have bad behaviours and are drunk, so they commit violence,” he said, adding that police advise them and educate them not to beat their families.
In September 2005, the National Assembly and Senate approved a law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims. This new legislation gives police greater powers to intervene in domestic violence cases and strengthens the legal recourse available to victims. This law is welcomed by LICADHO but more work needs to be done to ensure it is properly utilised to protect and empower women.
Rom Rorn and his wife, Mart Rorn said: “We are so happy that we have had the chance to join the project that teaches uneducated villagers like us how to avoid committing violence in our famillies. We also appreciate what the NGOs have done. It would be great if the NGOs could come and teach us regularly as they did before.”