Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken to dispensing marital advice to garment workers in recent speeches, warning them to be selective about finding husbands and reminding them that men face fewer stigmas when it comes to remarrying.
In a speech to roughly 13,000 garment workers in Sen Sok district yesterday, Hun Sen said they should be more selective about their partners now that they are earning as much as $200 per month.
“When you get married, you do the housework and look after them, they take your money to buy alcohol to drink and come back home and commit violence against us,” the premier said. “So we don’t choose men like that.”
Last week, Hun Sen reminded another gathering of garment workers in Kandal province of an old saying that warns: “When you do farming wrong this year, you can do it right another year, but women who choose their husband wrong one time are wrong for their whole life.”
“If men want to choose [to be married], how many times is up to them,” the premier added last week. “They marry and divorce . . . and go to find wives throughout the province. Some siblings have different mothers and they don’t even know each other.”
The premier’s comments come after weeks of overtures to garment workers – a major voting bloc – who have been lavished with populist promises, such as maternity bonuses, free health care and free public transportation in the capital. The government recently set next year’s wage at $170 a month, nearly three times what it was in 2012.
Workers and advocates yesterday had mixed feelings about the premier’s remarks. Women’s rights activist Prok Vanny said she agreed that women should put thought into who they marry, but said they should not be made to feel shame about remarrying if the marriage ends in divorce.
She also questioned whether it was the premier’s role to advise women. “It would be good for him to give advice to men on how to be a good man,” Vanny said.
Soun Mengly, a garment worker from Kampong Thom, said the premier’s words struck her as sexist.
“We should have same rights and equality between men and women,” Mengly said. “Men who are useless and commit violence, it is the man’s fault – not our fault.”
Phon Puthborey, a spokesman at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said in an email that the premier was merely emphasising the importance of women in Cambodia’s economic development.
“In his remarks, Samdech Prime Minister supports women’s thorough decision before entering into marriages, to avoid becoming victims of domestic violence,” he said.