While the majority of respondents to a survey said they felt gender-based and domestic violence was decreasing, NGOs have recommended greater effort in ending the normalisation of such violence and any culture of impunity for offenders.
A report documenting the findings, titled Experiences of Gender-Based Violence in Urban Poor Rental Housing Communities of Phnom Penh, was released by three NGOs – Klahaan, Urban Poor Women Development and People In Need.
A survey was carried out between December last year and February in three selected districts in the capital – Russey Keo, Mean Chey and Donkor – using 167 households, six focus group discussions and 20 key “informants”, including village chiefs, police and community leaders.
Bunn Rachana, co-founder and executive director of Klahaan, on Tuesday said the purpose of the research was to assess the prevalence of gender-based violence in the urban poor rental housing communities of Phnom Penh.
Perceptions of women’s safety in the areas were also looked at in the research, both among rental housing tenants and duty bearers responsible for service provision.
“The report examined the attitudes of urban poor community members and duty bearers towards gender-based violence, and analysed how these attitudes may contribute to the normalisation of violence and harassment,” Rachana said.
Its findings reported that almost every respondent said they thought gender-based violence was decreasing in their community. Just six respondents felt domestic violence was on the rise, while 142 felt it was declining.
Many respondents, when asked about safety in their rental homes, said they thought women felt insecure.
However, this was due to the possibility of break-ins and the poor condition of the property, rather than domestic violence.
“Many respondents in the long-form interviews said a lack of street lighting was a cause of women feeling afraid or vulnerable in the areas around their rental rooms or while going home from work late at night."
The survey found that the prevalence of sexual harassment in an area correlated directly with how safe that area was perceived by its residents.
However, a majority of respondents (69 per cent) said they felt the areas around their rooms were adequately lit for safety purposes.
“Almost 60 per cent of respondents felt that husbands were the main perpetrators of gender-based violence in their communities. A large number of responses mentioned the influence of alcohol and/or drugs on the perpetrator, as well as unequal power dynamics between men and women."
“Over a third [58 respondents] said they had personally witnessed or were aware of an incident of gender-based violence that had happened in their area inside rental rooms."
“It should be noted that this violence could have been carried out inside the room by someone other than a husband – it is a limitation of the data that this figure cannot be [separated] by perpetrator,” the report said, acknowledging its shortcomings.
Many respondents in both the qualitative and quantitative data reported that violence around rental rooms was carried out by “drug users”, gangsters and thieves.
The survey laid out many recommendations, including focusing on future programmes relating to changes in attitude as well as providing education and strong messages on women’s sexual autonomy and bodily integrity.
“The study found a strong trend towards perceptions of societal blame towards survivors of gender-based violence."
“Accordingly, the attitudinal and behavioural changes should form core objectives of any programming, campaigning or advocacy efforts, with the aim of ending the normalisation of gender-based violence and any culture of impunity for offenders,” the reported concluded.