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Despite Law, Domestic Violence Remains a Major Problem

A woman walks on a highway blocked by rocks after the passage of hurricane Matthew on the coast of Guantanamo province, Cuba.

It has been more than a decade since Cambodia passed a domestic violence law, but Cambodian women still face all manner of abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual.

Domestic violence remains a prevalent problem in post-war Cambodia, with more than 20 percent of men reportedly committing physical violence against women, according to the rights group Licadho. An estimated 37 percent of women face emotional abuse that is often overlooked by law enforcement, says a preliminary research report in 2014.

Even though the domestic violence law is in place for local and national police, “social structures” are detrimental to its enforcement, according to the report. About half of both men and women believe women should remain silent about domestic abuse to retain “harmony” in the family.

Dany Sum, a women’s rights advocate who campaigns to raise awareness of domestic violence in local communities, said it’s common for women, especially those in rural areas, to stay silent about abuse, often because of economic dependence on men. Many women in rural areas believe it’s a “habit of frustration” of their husbands, she said.

And even if their abusers are arrested, women will ask that they be released, she said, “because their living conditions are devastated without the support of their husbands.”

There remains a big difference in understanding abuse between rural and urban women, said Dany Sum, who recently was one of three recipients of an VXF award, an honor by U.K. Aid and the Asia Foundation to recognize efforts to end violence against women through mobile technology innovations.

“I think this solution is not as effective as legal punishment, because, after all, their husbands commit violence against them again,” she said.