In Cambodia, CARE has spent over a decade working with women and girls from ethnic minority communities. CARE also has a specific focus on addressing gender-based violence. To mark the end of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, CARE Cambodia is publishing its recent research which aims to further understanding of gender-based violence in ethnic minority communities.
The study looks at the attitudes and experiences of women from ethnic minorities in Ratanak Kiri, a remote province in the north-east of Cambodia. 57 per cent of the population in Ratanak Kiri is from an ethnic minority, compared to approximately 1.3 per cent in Cambodia overall. The minority groups have their own languages and traditions distinct from the rest of Cambodia.
During focus group discussions, women and men both identified small violence – which does not result in injury – as common and ongoing. Emotional violence such as yelling or saying derogatory things was also mentioned by women as being common in the community. However, reports varied on whether there had been and increase or decrease in violence against women in Ratanak Kiri in recent years.
A harmful practice identified was early marriage, with the lower age of marriage estimated to be 15-16 years of age. However, this is reported to have increased from 13-14 years of age in the past.
Similar to other parts of Cambodia, a social and cultural norm which is often perpetuated encourages the belief that gender-based violence is a family problem and that community members should not intervene. This can result in women failing to seek support. Where they do seek support, this is usually from family, friends, and village elders as opposed to the police.
The presence of village elders, who are respected as a central authority in the community, is one difference identified within ethnic minority communities. Many communities identified a meeting led by the elders as the ‘traditional way’ of responding to spousal violence.
This research was funded by the Patsy Collins Trust Fund Initiative.