Press ReleaseCAMBOW addresses issues in the Draft Domestic Violence Law
Cambodian Committee for Women (CAMBOW)
January 1, 2003 - Cambodian Committee of Women (CAMBOW), a coalition of 33 local NGOs working to advance the cause of women in Cambodia, will hold a public hearing Thursday January 16 at 2:30 p.m. at the Cambodiana Hotel, featuring victims of domestic violence sharing their stories and experiences for key Senators and MPs. Local authorities, lawyers, police officials, court officials and NGO workers will also speak on domestic violence-related issues.
“Our hope is that by bringing these people in to speak about their personal experiences with domestic violence, we will give the problem a human face and provide a comprehensive picture of the effects of domestic violence on society as a whole,” said Hor Phally, Director of the Project Against Domestic Violence (PADV).
One in six Cambodian women are affected by domestic violence, including physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, according to a survey by the Project Against Domestic Violence. Society’s tolerance of domestic violence is clearly illustrated by two beliefs: the first is that domestic violence is an “internal family problem,” therefore police and court officials are reluctant to interfere; and the second is the belief that rape does not exist within marriage. The problem is further exacerbated by inadequate laws pertaining to domestic violence as well as the victim’s own reluctance to alert authorities to violations because they often feel ashamed.
The draft Domestic Violence law was written by the Ministry of Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs in 2001 with input from civil society, was approved by the Council of Ministers prior to being sent to the National Assembly, and is scheduled to go to full debate at the National Assembly in the very near future.
CAMBOW believes Article 7 in the draft law, which mandates that public authorities remove the victim of domestic violence from the scene of the crime, should be removed. When authorities respond to violence in the home, it is the perpetrator -- not the victim -- who should be taken away, except in exceptional cases such as when the victim lives with her husband’s family. For most domestic violence cases, it is important to remove the perpetrator because in families where the husband beats the wife, he also frequently beats the children. If the authorities stop the husband from beating the wife by taking her out of the home, the children will be left with no protection from their abusive father.
“Victims of domestic violence should not be removed from their homes except in special cases, and authorities need to punish the perpetrators, not the victims" said Kek Galabru, Chairperson of CAMBOW. “This is an unfortunate and dangerous provision in what is otherwise an important and much-needed law to help protect the rights of Cambodian children”.
Article 28 of the draft law specifies that a married person under the age of 18 can give legal consent to engage in sexual intercourse. Article 28 is not consistent with the existing Marriage and Family law which specifies that a woman under the age of 18 and a man under age of 20 cannot marry, except in special circumstances. It would be a mistake to differentiate the age of legal capacity in different laws within a country. It seems that one law of a country prohibits a party under age of 18 to marriage and the other law provides the party under age of 18 a legal capacity to give consent to engage in sexual intercourse when married. The two laws clearly contradict each other. CAMBOW strongly disagrees with this clause as it believes the age of a party who has capacity to give consent should be the same as in other laws of the country.
CAMBOW believes the draft Domestic Violence law is a much-needed addition to the Cambodian legal system. It will give greater powers to the courts and public authorities to protect domestic violence victims, including through the issuance of “protection orders” against perpetrators. This kind of provision exemplifies a positive and progressive action, and its drafters and proponents are to be commended for their forward vision.
CAMBOW urges the National Assembly and the Senate to seriously consider the comments on the draft Domestic Violence law submitted by civil society as the law represents an opportunity for greater protection of women and children in Cambodia.