Khmernews

Sex Discrimination discussed

Posted by khmernews on June 14, 2007

By Kate Evans
The Phnom Penh Post

A joint delegation of government official and NGO representatives returned this week from New York, where they met with a United Nations committee to report on the country’s progress in reducing gender discrimination.
The Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), made up of 23 experts from around the world, monitors compliance with the provisions set out in the convention of the same name.

This was the first submission Cambodia had made to the Committee since the Kingdom ratified the Convention in 1992. “It’s been a very valuable experience for both the government and the NGO delegation,” said UNIFEM Acting Country Coordinator Ingrid Fitz Gerald.

“For the first time, Cambodia had an opportunity to discuss its anti-discrimination projects, to recognize its achievements in an international context, and to draw on the knowledge and expertise of this panel.”

The commission applauded the recent implementation of legislation against domestic violence, but encouraged the government to push ahead with a planned information campaign on the new law. The Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ing Kantha Phavi, agreed this was vital for the de facto functioning of the law.” We have to ensure women see domestic violence as a crime.”

Another major issue concerned the role in the school curriculum of Chhbap Srey, or the customary women’s code of conduct. According to head of the NGO delegation, Ros Sopheap, the code contains such recommendations as “When the man uses violence, you must accept it, and not use any means to protect yourself”, and “Do not take marital disputes outside the house.”

The code still holds sway in Cambodia, particularly in rural areas, and such provisions stop women from reporting incidents of domestic violence.

“The women’s code of conduct is an obstacle to development for women, “Kantha Phavi told reporters. However, she said the code is not a “package lesson to memorize” but a part of Khmer culture to be analyzed and adapted rather than thrown out completely.

“Chhbap Srey is a customary law, so we can therefore revise and modify any out-of-date aspects which prevent people from actively participating is societal development, “Phavi said.” We need to review the curriculum, and ensure teachers give a thorough explanation of both the men’s and women’s codes to ensure a progressive understanding of gender among our students.”

The delegation expects to receive a report from the commission in two to three weeks, containing doubled concluding comments about the issues discussed, and recommendation for what needs to be addressed most urgently.

Kantha Phavi said that, while much has been achieved over the past five years, the government recognizes its weaknesses in this area and would work hard to implement the committee’s suggestions.

-The Phnom Penh Post: Volume 15, Number 2 January 27 to February 9, 2006 “Sex discrimination discussed.” 

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