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Rape risk increasing in Cambodia

By Guy de Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Two Cambodian girls at play, 1999.
Women and girls face greater risk of rape and assault in Cambodia.

Women and girls in Cambodia are facing an increasing risk of rape and sexual assault, a government report has said.

It says that around a quarter of the female population faces domestic violence.

But the study showed many Cambodians think it can be acceptable for a husband to assault his wife.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs released its findings to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Long-held prejudices are combining with new forms of anti-social behaviour to put young women and girls at particular risk, the report says.

It said that the increasing use of drugs and alcohol by men is having a direct impact on the safety of female Cambodians.

It suggests that gang rape is being treated as a "sport" in some areas - and that law enforcement agencies need to do more to stop it.

Education needed

The research also indicates that women themselves may have created one of the biggest barriers to reducing domestic violence.

When presented with a list of justifications for a husband attacking his wife, more than half the women surveyed agreed with at least one of the suggested reasons.

The report says that education may be the key to changing the attitudes which allow attacks on women to go unpunished - or even condoned.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs points out that Cambodia is ahead of many other developing countries in terms of its legislation.

There are laws on the prevention of domestic attacks - and the national millennium development goals include targets for the reduction of violence and human trafficking.

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