Members of 13 NGOs, unions and human rights associations vowed on Thursday to go ahead with their International Women’s Day march on Friday despite the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall refusing them permission to do so.
They said they would march to the Council of Ministers, where they would deliver a seven-point petition on violence against women.
Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF) president Ou Tep Phallin said around 20 civil society groups, unions and human rights associations had signed the petition, while members of 13 had volunteered to be committee members and take it to the Council of Ministers.
Tep Phallin was speaking at a press conference at CFSWF offices in the capital’s Sen Sok district on Thursday.
She said the seven considerations included community kindergartens and children’s areas in the workplace, shelters for victims of domestic violence, the prevention of sexual harassment and abuse on women in the entertainment industry, and an end to violence against female human rights defenders.
They also included safer transportation for factory workers, better working conditions for domestic helpers and improved measures to prevent female migrant workers falling victim to exploitation, human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
“We notified Phnom Penh Municipal Hall and they told us that they wouldn’t allow us to march because they feared it would affect public order and cause traffic jams."
“This means they don’t want us to march, but we will do so because we want to show that Cambodian women are facing severe problems that have still not been resolved,” Tep Phallin said.
Keo Chanra, the secretary-general of the Coalition of Cambodia Farmers Community, said the Cambodian workforce was 79 per cent female, while the owners of small- and medium-sized business were 65 per cent women.
But she said women still suffered from physical and mental exploitation and faced violence and harassment of all forms without proper protection.
Research showed that 89.3 per cent of beer promotion women said they had been sexually harassed by men, which included indirect insinuation, she said.
“The government has paid attention and created many legal provisions, policies and action plans to respond to and prevent violence and sexual violence against women."
But the relevant ministries and the judicial system are not yet active and effective. As a result, it means women continue to suffer “discrimination, harassment and exploitation,” Chanra said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesperson Met Meas Pheakdey said on Thursday that the authorities supported International Women’s Day celebrations.
The municipality encouraged people to celebrate the event at their offices or any private location. However, the authorities would not allow marches as they cause traffic jams and affect public order.
“If they are defiant and go ahead with the march, we will take action against those responsible. We have informed them of this,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief Sar Thet said he had not received information regarding the march. But he said the groups should appoint five or 10 representatives to deliver the petition instead of marching.
He said permission must be given in advance, and if the municipality allowed it to go ahead, he would assign police to provide security and direct traffic. “If the municipality doesn’t permit it, then I cannot either,” he said.
The NGOs said the aim of this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations was to show women’s achievements over the past year and the problems they still faced.