A senior Social Affairs Ministry official said violence against disabled women or children had been reduced in Cambodia, saying it was thanks to extended media coverage and people learning more about the rights of the disabled. Civil society organisations working in the disability sector supported the remarks.

Speaking at the June 14 launch of a new programme with the theme “Basic Knowledge of Negotiating Gender and Disability” in Phnom Penh, ministry secretary of state and secretary-general of the Disability Action Council Em Chan Makara said the government had paid a lot of attention to the rights of these groups when it laid out the National Disability Strategic Plan 2019-2023.

Media coverage had played a very important role in raising awareness and ending violence among members of the public, with mental health education also playing an important part, he added.

“Reporters have spread this information through all forms of media and the ministries and institutions involved have also carried out extensive training,” he said.

He noted that the disabled now received additional protection, thanks to specific laws. This meant that if they were the victims of violence, perpetrators would face additional punishment.

“For example, in the hypothetical case of abuse against a deaf woman, the Disability Action Council has systems in place to act swiftly and visit the victim’s home. When crimes concern disabled people, the wrongdoers may be charged with aggravated circumstances,” he continued.

Chan Makara said the council collaborated with ministries and institutions to solve problems which arose, whether it was violence, emotional abuse, or the labour exploitation of disabled persons.

Chhorn Sovandeth, head of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation in Kratie province, said on June 15 through his and other NGOs work in the community – and the ministry’s efforts – violence against society’s most vulnerable members had declined.

“During Covid-19, impoverished disabled people received cash payments from the government, which sustained them through the worst of the crisis. In many cases, their standard of living improved, with a corresponding drop in discrimination and violence,” he said.