Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi on Wednesday said that currently around 80 per cent of the Kingdom’s female inmates are imprisoned on drugs charges.
“The major issue currently leading women to be imprisoned are drugs crimes. We have not made a full assessment yet, but if we look at the situation regarding women in Cambodian prisons, around 80 per cent of them were convicted of drugs crimes,” said Kantha Phavi, who is also chair of the National Committee for the Promotion of Social Morality and Values of Cambodian Women and Families.
She was speaking at a conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday outlining the committee’s 2017-18 achievements and setting its goals for 2019-2020.
Kantha Phavi said the promotion of morality and family values to Cambodian women was needed to eliminate negative activities in society. This was a difficult and complicated task she added, and one that could not be implemented by any sole ministry or institution.
She said it needed the participation of the government and courts, development partners, civil society, the private sector and the public.
Kantha Phavi continued that people’s mindsets needed to change, something that could not happen overnight and needed all of society to pull together, as well as the full commitment of all parties.
Kao Dina, Legal Aid of Cambodia’s Women’s Justice Programme head, said poverty and unemployment led women to commit drugs crimes to support their families.
Dina said that judges should consider using non-detention punishments in minor cases involving female drugs offenders.
“Non-detention punishments mean that people are still paying for their crimes but they are not incarcerated, so women can still look after their children and provide for the livelihoods of their families.”
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said in December 2018 that more than 30,000 inmates across Cambodia’s 28 prisons were female. Around 9,000 of those were convicted, while more than 20,000 were awaiting trial.
Nuth Savna, General Department of Prisons spokesman, could not be reached for comment.