Ajoint delegation of government officials and NGO representatives returned this
week from New York, where they met with a United Nations committee to report on
the country's progress in reducing gender discrimination.
on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), made up of 23 experts
from around the world, monitors compliance with the provisions set out in the
convention of the same name.
This was the first submission Cambodia had
made to the Committee since the Kingdom ratified the Convention in 1992.
"It's been a very valuable experience for both the government and the
NGO delegation," said UNIFEM Acting Country Coordinator Ingrid
"For the first time, Cambodia had an opportunity to discuss
its anti-discrimination projects, to recognize its achievements in an
international context, and to draw on the knowledge and expertise of this
The commission applauded the recent implementation of legislation
against domestic violence, but encouraged the government to push ahead with a
planned information campaign on the new law. The Minister of Women's Affairs,
Ing Kantha Phavi, agreed this was vital for the de facto functioning of the law.
"We have to ensure women see domestic violence as a crime."
issue concerned the role in the school curriculum of Chhbap Srey, or the
customary women's code of conduct. According to head of the NGO delegation, Ros
Sopheap, the code contains such recommendations as "When the man uses violence,
you must accept it, and not use any means to protect yourself", and "Do not take
marital disputes outside the house."
The code still holds sway in
Cambodia, particularly in rural areas, and such provisions stop women from
reporting incidents of domestic violence.
"The women's code of conduct is
an obstacle to development for women," Kantha Phavi told reporters. However, she
said the code is not a "package lesson to memorize" but a part of Khmer culture
to be analysed and adapted rather than thrown out completely.
Srey is a customary law, so we can therefore revise and modify any out-of-date
aspects which prevent people from actively participating in societal
development," Phavi said. "We need to review the curriculum, and ensure teachers
give a thorough explanation of both the men's and women's codes to ensure a
progressive understanding of gender among our students."
expects to receive a report from the commission in two to three weeks,
containing detailed concluding comments about the issues discussed, and
recommendation for what needs to be addressed most urgently.
Phavi said that, while much has been achieved over the past five years, the
government recognizes its weaknesses in this area and would work hard to
implement the committee's suggestions.