Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An inhuman act against men and women



An inhuman act against men and women

An inhuman act against men and women

Editor,

In your recent story on forced pregnancy under the Khmer Rouge (Forced pregnancy: crime but no punishment? September 16, Post Weekend, a number of harms suffered by victims were brought to light. As a researcher with a focus on gender, who was quoted in the article, I would like to add to my arguments that this was an inhuman act against not only women, but men too.

An unknown number of women were “forced to get pregnant” through the strict surveillance of Khmer Rouge (KR) spies. After a couple was “forced to marry” they were coerced to “consummate” their marriage. The findings from my most recent study also revealed that 55 percent (n=66) of women among 121 women had unwanted pregnancies, though some were already married before the KR. In any case, there were no easily accessible means to terminate their unwanted pregnancy, although my studies revealed that abortion was not prohibited under the KR and that it was even practised by midwives.

However, I would like to assert that “forced pregnancy” within “forced marriage” was not a solely inhuman act against women, but also an inhuman act against men. Men were forced to become the biological father of a child that they might not have wanted to have with their assigned wife. Men’s reproductive function was used by the state (KR) without his consent and treated with indignity.

In addition, such an inhuman act may have disproportionately affected the masculinity of Cambodian men, who were socialised to be the protector, provider and authority of the family. When a man, willingly or unwillingly, started out on his journey of fatherhood, his offspring may have died from starvation or preventable diseases.

There are many accounts of men’s hopelessness and lack of any moral support to them at those difficult times in my study. They had to endure all their sufferings in isolation, without being able to disclose their sad and desperate emotions, in order to adhere to the hegemonic masculinity assigned to them.

A man may blame himself for not being able to protect his child and think that he failed in his fatherhood, which could impose unimaginable challenges to his male identity for the rest of his life. This may be another source of traumatic experience among male survivors.

In the discourse of “forced pregnancy”, the differing impacts between men and women need to be carefully examined from the perspective of gender dynamics. Surely, it is of great importance to acknowledge that women were disproportionately affected by such an inhuman act, as some of my fellow women’s rights activists assert, because it was only women that could be forced to carry a pregnancy at the risk of her life under extraordinary hardship.

However, such a biological function does not preclude men from having equal reproductive rights or diminish their suffering from the emasculation of their gender roles.

Kasumi Nakagawa
Author of Motherhood at War: Pregnancy during the Khmer Rouge Regime

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10