Helping women find better employment opportunities is key to ensuring they feel able to report rape and sexual abuse, government and civil society representatives said yesterday.
Although Cambodian courts are prosecuting an increasing number of cases involving violence against women, economic concerns stop many from reporting all but the most extreme abuse, officials said.
“Women make legal complaints only when it is the last resort for them,” Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said. “When their anger is reduced, they beg police officers or prosecutors to release their husbands, because when the husband is in jail, there’s no one supporting their children.”
Research in Cambodia and around the world has shown that when women have more economic options, violence against women decreases, she said. For this reason, a new four-year National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women, which the Cambodian government and partners announced yesterday, will seek to provide victims with not just legal and psycho-social assistance but also education and vocational training.
As part of the action plan, the ministry hopes to expand a program of one-stop service centres currently based in Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, which offer victims healthcare, legal and social consultation and career training.
The existing centres assisted about 600 women in 2011 and 1,000 in 2012.
Pok Panha Vichet, executive director of Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center, said her organisation was working as a partner to offer young women scholarships and employment opportunities in banks and other formal sector jobs.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is also preparing to launch a monitoring system supported by the World Health Organization and UN Women to more accurately assess the prevalence of gender-based violence.