As government workers and others in Cambodia took the day off for International Women’s Day, human rights workers said Thursday the country still had a long way to go before true celebration was warranted.
Officials from civil society and women politicians from the opposition party said violence against women persists, and victims still are not offered enough protection. Cambodia has yet to effectively implement a law that would punish domestic violence, and respect for women’s rights remains elusive, they said.
“Women's rights are written in the constitution because we share equal rights with men, but it is not implemented,” Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development, said.
In 2005, the country adopted its first anti-domestic violence law. However, women today continue to suffer – among other violations, they are constantly met with domestic abuse and human trafficking.
The idea that women are equal to men has left many skeptical.
“I do not believe in this law, it only exists on paper, because the law is not implemented nor enforced,” a 30-year-old woman told VOA on condition of anonymity.
“When my husband is drunk, he uses his rights as a husband to beat me, until my head bleeds,” she said. “Because I have children, I endured this for them.”
Project Against Domestic Violence's Executive Director Hor Phally said men and women need to communicate better, and they should not resort to violence to solve their problems.
Ung Chanthol, director of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center, said one of the driving forces behind the problem is the lack of appropriate law enforcement.
“If we could have a 70 to 80 percent increase [in law enforcement], it would help a lot,” she said. “Instead, the perpetrators are not arrested.”