Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forced marriage a crime against both sexes: expert



Forced marriage a crime against both sexes: expert

Expert witness Kasumi Nakagawa gives her testimony at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC
Expert witness Kasumi Nakagawa gives her testimony at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Forced marriage a crime against both sexes: expert

Under questioning from co-prosecutors yesterday, expert witness Kasumi Nakagawa painted a vivid picture of how marriage and family life in Cambodia changed – for men as well as women – under the Khmer Rouge regime’s alleged policy of forced marriage.

Nakagawa, a Japanese academic who interviewed hundreds of survivors of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, has written three books on gender-based violence during that period.

The tribunal is currently hearing testimony related to the charge of forced marriage in the ongoing case against Democratic Kampuchea leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who are on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

“There was no safety net at all for both men and women during the Khmer Rouge time,” Nakagawa said. “An individual was separated from the family, daughters and sons removed from their parents.”

Responding to questions about marriage traditions before the Khmer Rouge, Nakagawa described a society in which arranged marriages were the norm, but in which the state had no influence over marriage practices.

“In the process of the marriage, the parents of both parties engaged actively, more than their son or daughter, because it was a very important duty of the parents to arrange . . . the marriage,” Nakagawa explained.

But everything changed under the Khmer Rouge. Instead of a traditional three-day wedding, the celebration was a short, austere affair, often carried out in a group with the blessing of Angkar. Marrying without a parent’s consent was traumatic for many women, Nakagawa explained.

“The women were very sad and regretted that their parents were not there, and they carry that remorse until now,” she said. Many women also expressed sadness over celebrating their weddings without traditional food and dress.

Men, Nakagawa added, were also negatively impacted by the destruction of traditional family structures.

“The younger men missed their mothers so much. I was very moved when I met with elderly men who repeatedly told me that they missed their mothers, and who tried to see their mothers by risking their lives,” she said.

Echoing the stories of previous witnesses, Nakagawa documented stories of spies being sent to ensure couples consummated their marriages. The pressure to consummate the marriage disproportionately impacted men, Nakagawa said.

“The men were forced to rape their wives,” she said. “Forcing a man to rape somebody is an inhuman act, and not all men could do it. But the fear of failing was immeasurable.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants