CAMBODIAN society – young people and men in particular – must modernise attitudes to combat increasing rates of violence against women and children, Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said Thursday.
“There are some concepts that should be reviewed and modernised in order to meet the changing culture of the country. The role of men must change; they should work in the home as well,” she said at the conclusion of a two-day conference in Siem Reap.
“We need to financially and educationally empower women. In rural communities, I have seen the education of daughters prevented by mothers because they think higher education is not important. They must hold the same values for their sons and daughters.”
Education is vital if domestic violence is to be reduced, she said. “If we are able to change [young people’s] perceptions, then we can work with the older people. The majority of men are committed; we must engage them and build cultures of nonviolence.”
Ellen Minotti, facilitator of the conference, said education should target the young. “Youth seems to be hungry for information about relationships. Through television and books we can show models of how relationships can be positive.”
Franziska Boehm, with the German development group GTZ, said awareness is improving but lamented the lack of accurate data. “There have been more reports in the media of domestic violence and rapes, particularly against underage girls. Our latest survey shows the level of awareness of this illegal and unacceptable behaviour has been improved, but we have a lack of reliable data ... as often victims will feel ashamed and not report it.”
Recommendations coming out of the conference, which was organised by the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, will be used to shape the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women 2009-12.