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Uphill fight for women's rights

Uphill fight for women's rights

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Mu Sochua , the politician behind the new draft law on domestic violence, is

speaking passionately to an audience of young adult students at the Australian

College of Education in Phnom Penh.

Mu Sochua, left, Minister of Women's and Veterans' Affairs. Born Phnom Penh 1954. Educated in French system until high school, when in 1974 she went to study in the USA where she gained a Bachelor of Psychology degree and a Master's degree in Social Work.

Married to an American, Scott Leiper, 3 daughters. Learned English through listening to music, especially The Beatles in the 60s. Her secret passion is to be a singer. Likes singing John Lennon's "Imagine" with some changed words to suit her dreams for a future Cambodia. She was away from Cambodia for 18 years and lost her ability to speak formal Khmer. She has had to relearn to read, speak and write Khmer and still struggles with it in certain topics such as law and economics.

The draft law seeks to protect the

victim by official intervention, removal of perpetrators from the family,

provision of shelter to victims for security and safety, and punishment of

perpetrators for marital and non-marital rape, beating, and child neglect or

abandonment.

The draft law is viewed by more conservative legislators as

radical and Sochua recognises she has an uphill struggle to have it passed,

because in many respects it threatens the position of men in Cambodian society

and she has been accused of interfering with the culture.

"This is not a

cultural issue. I am promoting this law because it hurts a woman to be sexually

abused. Because it hurts to be penetrated by a bottle, by a broomstick, by a

penis. Because it hurts when you are gang raped by young men who consider you

nothing but flesh, nothing but prostitutes, nothing but animals

"I no

longer want to make a difference between men and women, I want justice! I want a

peaceful, safe country for our children and families. Any politician who does

not support this law you should not vote for them, no matter which party you

support or belong to. Don't vote for those who do not believe in social justice,

who do not want change.

"Without this law we do not travel the road to

democracy."

Some of the students are about go to Japan and Australia to

do their masters degrees, some are studying women's development and Sochua has

been chosen as a role-model speaker.

She tells them: "You are the chosen

ones, the human capital of the new generation. You are part of Cambodia's road

to development, peace, democracy and reconstruction.

"You represent less

than one percent of the population. The facts are that 52 percent of our people

are women, and in rural areas 75 percent of them get less than three years of

schooling. Two thousand pregnant women die each year, simply because they are

women. They are all poor, with no education and no opportunities to improve

their standard of living and knowledge."

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