The Dignity Project is part of NGO-CEDAWs ongoing efforts to update the Cambodian law on domestic violence and establish more awareness and better protection for all people affected by gender-based violence.

The physical, emotional and mental weight many women have to carry throughout their lives often  remains unseen. Women may feel overwhelmed and worried. However, their role as caring mothers, wives and workers demands resilience, strength and compassion, despite partners or cultural attitudes that treat them with little respect or appreciation.

Ten years after Cambodia’s Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims (DV Law) was passed, the limitations of the law have become apparent. The law is rarely implemented effectively, and many people including authorities in charge (such as police and commune chiefs) do not understand the law well.

NGO-CEDAW calls upon the Royal Government of Cambodia to strengthen the laws affecting survivors of household and family violence and to ensure that these laws comply with CEDAW and other international standards, as the Cambodian constitution requires.

NGO-CEDAW also urges all authorities to protect every victim of abuse, whether or not the abuse leaves visible traces, because abuse begins with small acts, then grows worse, resulting in many deaths. Letting abusers get away without punishment teaches children that abuse is normal and acceptable.  It is time to break this cycle and protect victims of violence from further abuse.

The protection order or administrative decision can include requirements that the abuser stay away from the victim’s house or work while still paying for the support of family members. Violators can be immediately arrested. A temporary decision or order should be mandatory every time a woman fears future violence. Next, the law needs to be expanded to include not only spouses living with the abuser, but also unmarried partners and former partners. Often an abuser will chase a woman who tries to end the relationship and move away. Only a protective order or jailing the abuser will help.

Currently, many judges and prosecutors in domestic violence cases only apply Criminal Code Article 222, which outlaws violence against a spouse or partner, claiming that other criminal code articles which call for longer sentences do not apply.  The DV law needs to be revised to clarify that the fact that a victim is a relative is an aggravating factor, not a separate crime, allowing for longer, not shorter, jail sentences for abusers.

Finally, even the best law will not protect woman until every police officer and other authority figure learns about the law, understands the law, and fully uses the law. NGO-CEDAW urges the government to provide mandatory training to every authority at the local and national levels.

The Dignity Project would not be possible without the kind support of our donors.