The UN Development Programme (UNDP) recently organised a training course on the prevention of sexual abuse for officials at the Ministry of Environment.

The training – intended for official from the Climate Change Department under the ministry’s General Department of Policy and Strategy – was chaired by ministry undersecretary of state Prum Sophy and UNDP country representative Alissar Chaker.

The purpose of the training was to raise awareness and demonstrate the mechanisms that are in place to prevent the exploitation or sexual abuse in the workplace.

Chaker spoke about the effects of exploitation and sexual abuse on the psychology of individuals, and on the productivity of institutions.

“The UNDP supports and adheres to the principles of eliminating all forms of exploitation and sexual abuse by promoting outreach activities and training sessions to raise awareness on these issues,” she said.

Sophy said environment ministry has taken care to promote equal participation by men

and women from the national level to the sub-national level, through the Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Plan in Environmental Sector 2021-2025.

The training focuses on three strategies: institutional capacity building, raising the awareness of stakeholders – especially women, children, local communities and park rangers – on gender rights and equality, and increasing stakeholder cooperation.

“Because the country is peaceful and developed, we have the opportunity to focus on gender issues and the promotion of rights, and the elimination of discrimination and all

forms of abuse. I urge the UNDP to extend this training to national and sub-national officials, especially vulnerable people in protected areas,” he said.

Bon Rachana, director of the Klahaan Organisation, an NGO that works on women’s issues, said sexual abuse and harassment both in public and in the workplace continues to occur, with instances reported every day.

When there are so many cases of sexual abuse and harassment, it creates social insecurity. It restricts the freedom of movement of women and girls, who make up more than half of the population.

In addition, she explained that the state was forced to spend part of its budget solving these problems, when the money would be better spent on social development programmes.

She said Cambodia does not have specific laws on sexual harassment, and some members of the public still have a lack of awareness about sexual rights and reproductive health.

“Taking care of these problems requires outreach and formal education programmes, both inside and outside the educational system. In addition, legislation is required that defines harassment and exploitation. It should include resolution mechanisms and clearly defined penalties,” she added.

She added that such a law would have to be strictly enforced to be enforced to be effective. In addition training would need to be provided to all civil servants – especially security forces – so they would have a clear understanding of what sexual harassment is.