The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ disciplinary council on Tuesday decided to suspend a music video actress from working in the entertainment industry for one year after her refusal to curb her sexy clothing style – an action that observers yesterday said was “appalling” and “ridiculous”.
The punishment comes nearly a year after Denny Kwan was summoned by the ministry to be “educated” about her attire after photos of her wearing a revealing dress appeared on local media.
Chamroeun Vantha, an adviser for the ministry and chief of the disciplinary council, yesterday said Kwan was punished because she failed to respect a written promise she made with the ministry last May.
He claimed the sanction was in accordance with the ministry’s Artists’ Ethical Code of Conduct, which went into effect on February 23. Article 4 of the code encourages artists to dress with their personal dignity and national identity in mind.
“The council members decided to punish Denny Kwan by not having any activities in the entertainment industry for one year, such as filming, karaoke and singing performances on TV,” Vantha said on Tuesday. “Secondly, we appeal to artist associations, TV [station] and entertainment production owners to cooperate with the ministry to punish [her] by not giving her any work, like commercial spots and filming.”
Pon Putborei, spokesman for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said that as a public figure, Kwan doesn’t have the right to wear whatever she wants.
“She needs to be careful with our culture,” he said.
Kwan yesterday said she hadn’t received an official notification from the ministry. Nonetheless, she was unconcerned about their punishment, as she has her own business and will be able to earn a living.
“I know it’s my right to [dress how I want], but our culture, Cambodian people, cannot accept it,” she said. “I will try not to be sexy as I usually am when I post on Facebook.”
While Kwan herself was not alarmed, some advocates were outraged.
Thida Khus, head of women’s rights group Silaka, called the ministry’s action “appalling”.
“This situation only happens to women, and it’s gender discrimination,” she said. “It’s a violation of gender equality. Women are the ones prone to this.”
Furthermore, Khus maintained that the ministry preventing Kwan from getting work, and asking employers to cooperate by not hiring her, is yet another wave of discrimination.
“This is a failure from the government by not exercising its duty in protecting people from gender discrimination,” she said.
Theresa de Langis, a gender studies researcher, said Cambodia is like elsewhere where women can be constrained to the norms rooted in the past. But women and men should be given the same rights to express themselves.
“Something like this has a chilling effect, not only on her, but on women in general who are hoping to express themselves,” she said.
Ros Sopheap, head of Gender and Development for Cambodia, said the ministry’s concern that she may inspire others to dress like her is “ridiculous” since other women are already wearing modern, and sometimes revealing, clothes as well.
Sopheap said it was important for the country’s gender equality policy, which stipulates that men and women should be treated equally, to be correctly enforced.
“There is no law to tell her what to wear or what not to wear,” she said. “We have the right to choose, to select the clothes we want.”