Cambodia’s rising number of rape cases is fueled by impunity and poverty, among other factors, a rights activist said Monday.
“There has been injustice as the impunity for some offenders still exists,” Lim Mony, deputy head of the women’s section for the rights group Adhoc, told “Hello VOA” Monday. “Another factor is poverty within families, where victims are sent away from home to work or to herd cattle in the fields.”
Pornography, drug use and unemployment are also underlying factors to rapes, she said.
The reported number of rape cases across the country continues to rise. Adhoc recorded 501 cases, far more than one each day, in 2010, and increase over 460 in 2009 and 419 in 2008. Of those, nearly three quarters involved underage girls, Lim Mony said.
Some callers to Monday night’s program pointed to weak law enforcement and corrupt police.
“In some cases, when victims come forward with complaints against the offender, police demand money from them,” one caller said. “Otherwise, they won’t proceed with the case. So some victims don’t dare complain.”
Often, when rapes are reported, they are settled out of court, with the perpetrator settling with the family with money in exchange for them dropping the charges. However, rights officials say they should still be prosecuted under criminal codes.
Hor Malin, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said that’s because the penal code is not being used properly.
“We are striving to strengthen our law enforcement by raising public awareness of the existing laws, especially the new penal code,” she said as a guest on “Hello VOA.”
Use of the existing law would prevent out-of-court settlements, she said. “We are working hard to make sure that offenders will face consequences in both cash compensation and jail sentences, because rape is an intolerable crime.”
Lim Mony said victims and their families can file complaints against police who demand money from them in dealing with their cases. They can also seek out the local offices of rights groups and of the Women’s Affairs Ministry for help, she said.