Last Updated: Monday, 22 December 2014, 15:24 GMT

Cambodia: Information on the protection, services and legal recourse available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2004 - December 2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 8 March 2007
Citation / Document Symbol KHM102400.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Cambodia: Information on the protection, services and legal recourse available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2004 - December 2006), 8 March 2007, KHM102400.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469cd6a8e.html [accessed 22 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Domestic violence is a "widespread" and "serious" problem in Cambodia, according to Violence Against Women: A Baseline Survey, the report of the first "systematic national survey" to address attitudes about domestic violence in Cambodia (GTZ, HRCP and UNIFEM, 7, 1). With the support of various international organizations, including the United States (US) Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (ibid., iv), independent experts undertook research to gain an understanding of the survey respondents' awareness and experience of violence against women and to assess the level of services available for victims of violence by surveying 3,000 people from the general population and 300 local authorities all spread out across Cambodia's 13 provinces. (ibid., V, XI – XII). The researchers found that 64 percent of those sampled knew a husband who was violent towards his wife, while 22.5 percent of the women in the sample reported that they had been victims of violence at the hands of their husband (ibid., 2).

In the foreword to the report of the national survey, Cambodia's minister of women's affairs, Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, explains that domestic violence is viewed as "a family issue," as opposed to "a social issue or a public issue," a position she regards as unfortunate (ibid., III; see also LICADHO July 2004, 8). She also says that "assistance for victims is inadequate due to lack of support services and because outsiders are reluctant to become involved" (GTZ, HRCP and UNIFEM 2005, III). As the survey shows, key resources – including counselling, health centres and legal aid – are unavailable in most areas of the country (ibid., 86). A report published by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) similarly states that there is an "urgent" need for more trained counsellors to treat victims of domestic violence, as well as more shelters (LICADHO July 2004, 9).

The country enacted a law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims in October 2005 (UN 20 Jan. 2006). In comments to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), on this law and other legal and administrative measures addressing women's rights, Ing Kantha Phavi said that the measures were not always "fully effective because gender issues were still not deeply understood" (ibid.). She also said that "implementing the domestic violence law would be difficult," adding that many people in Cambodia believe that men have "the right to discipline women and children with violence" (ibid.). She further commented that various gender-protection policies and programs require more effort from the government (ibid.).

Laws prohibiting violence against women are not enforced by local authorities and police, according to Violence Against Women (GTZ, HRCP and UNIFEM 2005, 86). In fact, the report states that 71 percent of police surveyed told researchers that it is appropriate for a husband to subject his wife to the most extreme forms of violence – including those which can cause death – if she does not "obey or respect" him (ibid., 70).

The International Federation for Human Rights reporting on the comments of CEDAW as it considered Cambodia's report under its Convention, quoted the Committee as saying that it is concerned that women who are victims of violence face "'significant obstacles in accessing justice'" (22 Mar. 2006). CEDAW identifies these obstacles as:

"a lack of trust in the judicial system, the arbitrary interpretation of the criminal law by judges in favour of perpetrators, the prevalence of impunity of perpetrators, the limited availability of legal aid and the high cost of medical certificates that are required in cases of rape and sexual assault." (FIDH 22 Mar. 2006)

Likewise, the 2004 report produced by LICADHO states that the police and courts are "reluctant" to take domestic violence "seriously" since it is generally perceived as a family problem (July 2004, 8). The same source also reports that petitioning for divorce is a time-consuming process and that abused women seeking divorce are required to undergo a mandatory period of reconciliation (LICADHO July 2004, 8).

The government of Cambodia is reportedly planning an information campaign on the domestic violence law in order to inform judges, law enforcement officials, and the general public of the criminal nature of domestic violence (UN 20 Jan. 2006). No further information about this campaign could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO). July 2004. Cambodian Women Report 2004: A Brief on the Situation of Women in Cambodia. [Accessed 15 Jan. 2007]

German Technical Assistance (GTZ), Human Rights in Cambodia Project (HRCP) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). 2005. Violence Against Women: A Baseline Survey. [Accessed 15 Jan. 2007]

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). 22 March 2006. "Domestic Violence, Rape, Trafficking: A Prevailing Culture of Violence Targeting Women." [Accessed 15 Jan. 2006]

United Nations. 20 January 2006. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). "Women's Anti-discrimination Committee Considers Cambodia's Report; 'Code of Conduct,' Trafficking, Quotas Among Issues Addressed." (WOM/1530) [Accessed 29 Jan. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: A representative from the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center was not able to provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Cambodia Defenders Project, Factiva, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, United Nations Development Fund for Women, United States Agency for International Development, Voice of America News, Worldpress.org.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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