Cambodia: Violence against Women and Information Communication Technologies

4 November 2009

By Chim Manavy

Violence against women (VAW) is prevalent in Cambodia despite being under-reported. This paper attempts to present the widespread phenomena of VAW and seeks to find the connection between VAW and the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Domestic violence remained high over the past decade and reports of rape increased. Reliable data on the incidence of sexual exploitation is unavailable, although it appears to be entrenched in Cambodian society.1 Traditional gender relations assign women a lower status than men; with women receiving less education and are typically not well represented in public decision-making processes outside the immediate household. VAW happens in almost every woman’s life but is rarely disclosed. All forms of VAW usually take place under the veil of silence and shame due to fear of stigmatisation and a strong sense of obligation to keep family’s reputations intact. Violence against women must therefore be viewed in the context of a wider culture of violence and impunity in which violence is an accepted way of resolving conflicts, and perpetrators are rarely punished2.

The government and many non-governmental organisations, whether individually or collectively, have been working to protect women’s human rights, on specific issues such as domestic violence, trafficking, rape, etc. The government National Plan on the protection of women against violence has been adopted by the Council of Ministers as guidance for further intervention. Progress has been achieved in strengthening the legal framework to address violence against women including the Cambodian Constitution and eight laws adopted in relation to protecting women’s rights. Cambodia has signed The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), is a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and has ratified more than 10 international instruments providing fundamental protection for female workers. Besides this, Cambodia also committed itself to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In relation to ICT, there was a draft National Policy that is not yet finalised and approved. Despite the Prime Minister’s calls for all ministries and government institutions to mainstream gender into national policies, it is hardly seen in the draft ICT national policy.

Due to lack of ICT infrastructure, internet is only available at tourist destination cities and provinces at a very high price ($0.5/hour). It is not affordable to people whose income is lower than $2 per day. Moreover, the ICT use and awareness of how it can be strategically used to combat violence against women is very limited. Only a few local organisations are even familiar with the use of ICT. While other women’s organisations and networks worldwide are already using online resources in a myriad of ways to mobilise support and share experiences, most Cambodian women are not familiar with the use of ICT. However, with the rapid growth of ICT around the globe, people are also concerned about the use of ICT for other purposes that are against human rights.

In Cambodian cases, Khmer Sex video on CDs can be bought from the road and in public places for less than $1/CD. Meant originally for personal use only, such recorded sex images and acts are now used to shame the girls involved in the video in their own communities. Parents taught their 7-year-old daughter how to film them having sex with a mobile phone in utter violation of the girl child’s rights. The recording was also transferred widely from phones to phones. Against the will of a well-known female actress, her naked half body image was widely distributed and transferred through Bluetooth3.

We can see that the growth of internet tends to push the limits of a society's attitudes towards acceptable media images. Technology is moving across boundaries faster than the law can address.

This country paper draws from many sources and websites, with materials in both hard copies and in electronic formats, including those from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, NGOs, CEDAW, ILO, UN, the Association for Progressive Communications and others.

In conclusion, there is a long way to go for Cambodia before it reaches a knowledge-based society where ICT is accessible and is a friendly tool for ending VAW.

Recommendations include conducting a national research on violence against women in Cambodia; joint work by civil society and government; research to identify indicators of Cambodian population awareness on violence against women in response to the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals 2015; craft strategies for the strategic use of ICT to end violence against women and mobilise resources. There is also a need for an analysis of the advancement of ICT and its social integration so that ICT is available for everyone including women. It is imperative that women are able to draw on available resources to combat violence against women, and receive the skill-building necessary to do this.


1 “ A Fair Share for Women-Cambodia Gender Assessment ” Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia, April 2008

2 “ A Fair Share for Women-Cambodia Gender Assessment ” Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia, April 2008

3Bluetooth is a wireless protocol for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices

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