A recent survey of 100 people in Battambang and Kampong Chhnang provinces and Phnom Penh by civil society organisations revealed that 85 per cent of women are still interested in entering politics, especially through the commune and general elections in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

The survey report, titled Women Activists’ Participation in Politics in Cambodia, was released on June 23 by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL).

According to the survey, women expressed their commitment despite the challenges and discrimination they face, with 71 per cent of respondents saying they experienced violence every day for participating in politics.

Democratic Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun who researched the report said women in political parties generally faced violence in many forms and at many levels.

He said it remained a serious problem although the rights to participate in politics was enshrined in the Constitution and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

“Women political activists are still not encouraged to take on senior roles in a political party and [can] suffer from mental, physical, sexual and economic abuse if they do,” he said.

Chanroeun requested that relevant organisations make a policy on gender equality in a political party and an election law for gender as effective tools for demanding the right for equal opportunities as elected candidates.

Ke Rith, deputy director of the National Election Committee (NEC)’s legal services and dispute department, said NEC encouraged women to participate in politics and social work.

He said NEC will seek to participate more in this work. But the election law, he noted, required both male and female candidates to register on the voting list of a political party, which in turn fields a candidate to run for elections.

Ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said the CPP had always encouraged women to participate in politics.

“Our people understand about violence against women ... The government has very strict measures against child and woman abuse but we acknowledge that there are still some issues relating to violence against women in the family,” he said.

Ministry of Women’s Affairs secretary of state Kim Siphat said the government was committed to encouraging women’s participation in politics at both national and international levels to promote leadership by women through the implementation of CEDAW.

She added that women are equal to men in the political and public arenas. They can represent the country at the international level. But this work cannot be accomplished without the participation of all stakeholders, especially men.

“A change in men’s attitudes is the motivating factor for supporting women. Women are encouraged to participate in this work, but without the support of men then it is not possible. So, this support has limits,” Siphat said.