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Stay chaste, gov’t urges youths

A young woman rearranges a flower display at a stall in Phnom Penh
A young woman rearranges a flower display at a stall in Phnom Penh yesterday. The government is urging young people to celebrate this Valentine’s Day in a manner which ‘preserves Cambodian culture’. Hong Menea

Stay chaste, gov’t urges youths

In an attempt to prevent “immoral” activities and young people doing “something they don’t want to do” this Valentine’s Day, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been talking up the importance of remaining chaste and preserving Cambodian culture, an official said yesterday.

Long Nimol, deputy director at the ministry, said these messages had been delivered to students at high schools, while the ministry had been liaising with local authorities to deter minors from having sex with their significant others today.

“I have observed that on February 14, teenagers like to gather at school and some of them give bunches of flowers. Many girls are persuaded to do something they don’t want to do,” Nimol said, adding that many youths are known to go to guesthouses on Valentine’s Day and participate in “immoral” activities.

As Valentine’s Day has become more popular with Cambodians, the fears of some that the activities of young people on February 14 may conflict with Cambodian culture have increased. Last year, police were deployed to guesthouses, threatening to fine couples under the age of 18, whom they argued were not allowed to check in as guests.

Pol Pithey, director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said yesterday that while an educational statement designed to inform local authorities about young people’s activities was distributed earlier this week, officers won’t be taking as militant an approach this year.

A teenager looks over Valentine’s Day flowers at a stall on Street 51 in Phnom Penh
A teenager looks over Valentine’s Day flowers at a stall on Street 51 in Phnom Penh yesterday. Hong Menea

“We will not deploy forces for observation on this holiday, since I believe that youths are now more knowledgeable about this stuff,” They said.

A group of NGOs will distribute 100,000 free “Love” brand condoms and offer free HIV testing in eight locations around the capital today.

While the message behind the campaign is the importance of practising safe sex, Ung Kim Heang, the country program manager for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, one of 12 NGOs involved, acknowledged that the campaign’s slogan, “LOVE is the Best Protection”, is potentially misleading.

The Ministry of Education could not be reached.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE

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