Cambodia is still struggling to regain its footing after years of warfare and harsh regimes. The country is making great strides but one area it falls short in is women’s rights. A study conducted by ADHOC Cambodia in 2012 revealed how far behind the country is in protecting and promoting women. Women in Cambodia as subjected to abuses with little legal recourse available to them. Although women were granted an equal rights status during the 1990s, they are still considered lesser in Cambodian society. Domestic abuse, human trafficking, and sexual violence are daily realities for women living in Cambodia.
Asian countries are traditionally male-dominated and Cambodia is no exception. Women are considered the property of men, husband or otherwise. This mindset has a tendency towards abuse. According to ADHOC’s recent investigation, “in 2012 at least 1,089 women and children were victims of domestic violence”. If a woman is abused by her husband, she rarely has the law on her side. In extreme cases, the abuse can lead to husband killing his wife. There is rarely a place a woman can go to escape their abusive partners. Many of them don’t have the resources to leave their spouses and support their children. It’s nearly impossible for women to escape the cycle of abuse.
Sexual violence and human trafficking are a dangerous problem in Cambodia. There is a high rate of sexual abuse and rape in the country. Statistics from ADHOC state that 70% of the perpetrators are someone the victim knows. A strong culture of victim shaming fosters a culture where most attacks go unreported. And if the perpetrator is a family member or authority figure, the victim has nowhere to turn to. Added to this is a failure on behalf of law authorities to punish the criminals.The sex trade and human trafficking rings are contributing to the exploitation and violence against women. It’s difficult to accurately estimate the number of sex workers in Cambodia, but some numbers put it at around 100,000. Brothels and trafficking rings are rarely prosecuted by the law. The cycle of exploitation and abuse continues until the government takes more action to protect women.
There is some hope the women in Cambodia. There are several NGOS in Cambodia dedicated to rescuing and helping these women.The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) was established in 1997 to help victims of violence and abuse. The center helps with anything from health care services to legal representation for women. Another organization helping women is Agir pour le Femmes en Situation Precaire (AFESIP) which provides shelter for women escaping abuse and human trafficking.
With organizations like these giving women in a chance, there is some hope for the women of Cambodia. However, until there is a shift from a patriarchal society to a more equal one women will still have fewer rights than men. They will continue to earn less than men and be subjected to abuse. With renewed pressure from the international community, Cambodia may be driven to take action to protect and improve the lives of women in their country.