W omen's group's and a state department are planning to join forces next month
and mark International Women's Day with a march through the capital's bars,
nightclubs and brothels.
The State Secretariat for Wo-men's Affairs and
NGO's are organizing the procession on March 8 called "Night Dhamayietra
The march is proposed in a document put out by the groups, which
calls on Co Premiers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen to order a one-day
closure of commercial sex outlets.
The document, titled Cambodian Women
Taking Action for Change, also proposes Queen Monineat Sihanouk as the National
Women's Symbol for the day.
Helping to present the document to the press
was the Secretary of State for Women's Affairs Kiet Sokun, who is ironically a
man. He was promoted to the job after the formation of the Royal
He complained that women are not treated fairly by his sex,
saying, "men never give a green light to women to share opinions to discuss what
is right and what is wrong."
Buddhist monks, nuns, are also expected to
take part in the march which is intended to protest violence against women as
well as to express solidarity with women and children in the sex
The document says: "The marchers will go through the various
"red-light districts", encouraging sex industry workers to join in rather than
work during that night."
The areas referred to include Tuol Kork
embankment, Svay Pak nicknamed hand-waving village because all the prostitutes
beckon customers and Troloak Bek (broken coconut shell) in central Phnom
The media is asked to cover the event by focusing on the social and
economic problems which cause the sex industry to flourish rather than to blame
women for joining it.
The Government proposes to control the sex industry
by ultimately raising standards of living to reduce the financial incentives to
women to become prostitutes.
The document calls on women to actively
take part in the coun-try's reconstruction rather waiting for it to
"Cambodia can not afford to ignore the strength of its women and
the suffering they have endured for more than two decades," it
Sochua Leiper, president of the women's NGO Khemara and an
organizer of the International Day said that women make up 65 percent of the
country's population. Most of them also have to earn a living as farmers or
The document also raises concerns about the rights women
have been granted in the constitution, pointing out there is not yet a legal
system in place to guarantee them.
It adds that in the past the women's
day celebration used to be perceived as a grant for equal rights "only on that
day and only in the family circle.
"Claiming for equal rights is
rhetorical and vague. Men usually question why women want so many rights," it
The Secretariat for Women wants to see three new departments set
up to protect women's health, their rights and promote their development.
"We will make amendments to the law concerning women in order to narrow
the gap of discrimination between men and women. The Secretariat will combine
all efforts to fight for the sake of our women."
Other action planned
over three days includes visits to women prisoners to monitor conditions and
talks with the Phnom Penh police department to push for the employment of a
special team of women officers to deal with violence and exploitation of
On the following day, Mar 7, NGOs are planning to hold AIDS
prevention classes for prostitutes.
And Mar 8 itself will start religious
ceremonies, including pray-ers dedicated to mothers who died and offerings to
nuns and monks in front of the Royal Palace.