It's no secret that in Cambodia human rights is a concept that some believe passionately in promoting while others seem to have no comprehension of the concept. In the workplace, in homes behind closed doors, and out in public venues, it's not uncommon to see evidence of abuse or sheer lack of respect among the people of this country. The raw inhumanity some people possess is devastating. (Of course, I have to say some because as epidemic as this problem is, I hate generalizations. I know wonderful, beautiful Cambodians who, in fact, do the opposite of perpetuating this sort of hatred.) This article from the BBC, however, will give you an idea of the sort of mentality that runs through this country. One where women are second class citizens and abuse isn't just ignored, it's accepted.
Maybe you have heard stories about women of Southeast Asia who work in brothels or who were sold into sex slavery. Today, I visited the organization called Daughters, where a friend of mine works as a nurse. Daughters is an organization that provides free medical care for brothel workers and jobs for those who choose to leave the industry. There are so many great organizations here who are using their professional specializations -- whether it be medical care, counseling, legal advisory, or entrepreneurship -- to fight the industry that is destructive to these women's dignity.
However, the reality of Cambodia is that it isn't just women in brothels who have to live their lives in fear in being the victims of violence. As the article above mentions, nearly a quarter of Khmer women are victims of domestic violence. Daughters, mothers and sisters who live ordinary lives, like you or me, face this fear as well. One evening last week, I was at the ANDC Center for an event with the kids, and as 8:00 p.m. rolled around one of the Khmer volunteers hurriedly grabbed her moto and hit the road for home.
"For Cambodian women, it's unsafe to be out much later than 8 o'clock," she told me. While Western women don't have to worry so much, as we are seen to possess a higher level of power and will mostly likely only be the targets for petty crimes, Khmer women have to give caution to more brutal forms of violence.
International Women's Day isn't for another month, but I thought this would be interesting to give some thought to as V-day approaches this weekend. Valentine's Day might be a happy time of chocolate and roses, but how much more productive is the V-day that is the global movement to end violence against women and girls. To read more about the movement and how it is effecting the world, visit this website.