Cambodia: With Rapes on the Rise, Amnesty International Urges Government to Address Lack of Law Enforcement
Monday, March 22, 2010 9:30 AM

22 March 2010

Amnesty International has issued a report examining the experiences of rape victims in Cambodia and urging the Cambodian government to meet its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other international human rights instruments Cambodia has ratified. The report, Breaking the Silence: Sexual Violence in Cambodia, is based on interviews with female victims of rape, service providers, government officials, law enforcement agents, and lawyers in several Cambodian provinces. It notes an increase in the number of rapes reported over the past few years, and identifies several barriers faced by rape victims who seek justice, including:

  • societal norms that subordinate women to men and place a high premium on female virginity;
  • poverty, which hampers victims' ability to cover costs for transport to health clinics, police and courts and reduces their access to justice because of inability to pay bribes to police and court officials;
  • lack of khnang or powerful connections;
  • perceived police corruption and bias;
  • delays and lack of thoroughness in police investigations, which police officers blame on a lack of funds and modern forensic equipment;
  • fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, particularly in cases where police officers raped sex workers;
  • police facilitation of out-of-court monetary settlements between the families of the perpetrator and the victim, on the condition that the victim withdraw the criminal complaint;
  • difficulty of obtaining medical certificates from doctors, who tend to focus on the state of the hymen in determining whether rape has occurred;
  • unavailability of both clinical and forensic services at a single medical faciltiy, resulting in increased expense for the victim;
  • lack of government social services for rape victims;
  • lack of coordination between NGOs providing social services to rape victims;
  • lack of services for victims with disabilities and special needs;
  • insensitive or corrupt judges and prosecutors; and
  • a predominance of male judges, prosecutors, and lawyers.

Cambodia's new Penal Code, which clarifies and expands the definition of rape and sets a minimum age of consent, will come into effect later this year. Amnesty has recommended that the Cambodian government use the occasion to address inadequate law enforcement and corruption and improve rape victims' access to services.

Compiled from: Breaking the Silence: Sexual Violence in Cambodia, Amnesty International (ASA 23/001/2010) (March 2010) (PDF, 62 pages).