Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Little recourse for domestic abuse victims, report finds

Little recourse for domestic abuse victims, report finds

A victim of alcohol-related domestic violence recounts her experience at a house in Kandal province last year.
A victim of alcohol-related domestic violence recounts her experience at a house in Kandal province last year. Mech Dara

Little recourse for domestic abuse victims, report finds

Victims of domestic violence in Cambodia have little option but to remain in abusive situations due to social stigma and the failures of the justice system, according to a report from Licadho that covers more than 200 cases investigated by the human rights group over the past two years.

The report, released on Saturday, finds that more than 40 percent of victims encountered by Licadho returned to their violent partners, and just one in five brought criminal charges against their abusers.

Naly Pilorge, Licadho’s deputy director of advocacy, said the figures show that large swaths of society still do not recognise domestic violence as a crime.

“Families, communities, law enforcement, court officials and even victims themselves still think it’s a shameful family affair and often blame the victims for provoking the violence,” Pilorge said. “By writing about it, we are hoping all sectors of society will acknowledge it’s a crime.”

Women’s rights activists backed up the material in the report, which concluded that religious beliefs, lack of faith in the courts and shame all contribute to women’s reluctance to pursue justice.

Often, it is family members who advise women to stay in abusive relationships in order to preserve familial and community harmony. Other women see their abuse as a manifestation of bad karma from wrongdoing in their previous lives in keeping with a Buddhist worldview, according to the report.

“Some women stay quiet,” said Chhan Sokunthea, who oversees the women’s and children’s rights section of Adhoc. “Some complain to the local authorities, but the local authorities think domestic violence is a family issue.”

For cases that do make it to criminal court, sentencing is mixed, with many abusers given punishments below the legal minimum, the report found.

In one case, a man who doused his wife in gasoline and burnt her to death received just four years in prison. In another, a man beat his wife’s mother to death, only to have his charges reduced at trial, then to have 16 months of his two-year sentence suspended.

In the most severe domestic violence cases involving death or serious injury, it is also common for the abuser to simply run away, Sokunthea said. “It’s a big problem. It’s very hard for the victim to get justice, especially in serious cases.”

The study also found that in two-thirds of cases in which women returned to their abusers, authorities were involved in encouraging them stay, often through an informal reconciliation processes.

Prok Vanny, a women’s rights activist, said women have more access to resources and legal aid than ever but still face an uphill battle in the legal system, where most police and judges are men.

“Many men are surprised” when a woman pursues charges, Vanny said. “They think it’s bad. But for myself, I think women are changing from silence to speaking.”

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs could not be reached yesterday.

Among other things, Licadho recommends the government fund a network of domestic violence shelters, establish a legal assistance fund for victims, amend the domestic violence law to discourage informal reconciliation proceedings and train police and judges on the use of restraining orders.

To those who know a victim of domestic violence, Pilorge encouraged them to listen and protect them.

“To be believed and acknowledged are the first steps for many victims to gain confidence in pursuing justice and to start healing,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Aeon, Micromax partner again for third mall

    AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a locally-owned Micromax Co Ltd have entered into a partnership agreement to develop fibre optic infrastructure for $200 million Aeon Mall 3, which is expected to be opened in 2023. The agreement was signed on June 20 between Masayuki Tsuboya, managing director of

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and