Cambodia's Ministry of Women’s Affairs is stepping up its efforts to ensure victims of gender-based violence get justice, ministry officials said during a presentation of their annual report yesterday. But some activists counter that the ministry could do more.
During a meeting at the Peace Palace presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen, officials revealed that the ministry had provided legal aid to 87 victims of gender-based violence last year. Of those cases, 33 were cases of domestic violence, 53 of rape, and one of sexual harassment. The victim was underage in nearly half of the cases.
“With good cooperation from the police and the courts, the judiciary sped up cases of violence against women and girls, especially the cases of underage victims,” the report reads.
But Ros Sopheap, executive director of NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, said more details are needed to determine whether the ministry’s work is effective.
“It looks like, at the policy level, the government is working hard, and I appreciate that they are offering services for women, because women need a lot of services, especially legal services,” Sopheap said. “But it’s hard to say how much effort is being put into dealing with the cases. We haven’t seen how many of these cases are a success, how many are a failure, how many are ongoing.”
What’s more, special efforts must be made to reach at-risk women, like sex workers and entertainment workers, Sopheap noted. For example, the ministry should provide the contact information of lawyers looking to work with victims of gender-based violence.
The report noted that Cambodian women are facing myriad challenges, such as discrimination upon entering the labour market and vulnerability to human trafficking. The possibility of being exploited by the commercial surrogacy industry was also mentioned.
In October, the government is required to submit its sixth report to the UN committee in charge of monitoring the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Cambodia is a signatory.
“The last report was in 2013,” said Channeang Chim, of the NGO CEDAW, which monitors Cambodia’s compliance with the convention. “This year . . . they should focus on law and family, women in rural areas, women in politics; they need to focus on every sector.”