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

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration