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Midwife stands strong to protect woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body

Gender-based violence can take many forms. In Cambodia there is often the misconception that this is limited to a man beating his wife. CARE’s work to enable health centre staff to support women experiencing intimate partner violence is revealing the many nuanced ways in which women can be affected—and how health staff can be part of the solution.

Vathy is a midwife at Daun Penh Health Center in Phnom Penh. She has been trained to recognise signs of violence against women – including emotional and psychological – and to support any women affected with dignity and respect. Her understanding helped one young woman avoid an awful situation and to save the life of an unborn baby.

In early 2017 a young couple in their twenties came to her asking for an abortion. Vathy soon realised that the woman had not come to the health centre willingly; she did not want to terminate her pregnancy but was being coerced by her partner. The couple were not married and in Cambodian culture it can be viewed as unlucky to get married while pregnant. Despite this, the woman obviously wished to keep her baby and was distressed by what was happening.

Vathy provided counselling to the couple. She said that the pregnancy was far enough along that an abortion would not be possible and that regardless she would not do this if the woman did not consent. The man seemed to accept this and they returned home.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of it and Vathy was confronted again by the man, alone this time. He told her he did not want to have this baby and kept insisting that she must do the abortion. Vathy stood firm in the face of this threats and kept calmly explaining all of the reasons she would not do this: that he had no right to force a woman to do a procedure on her body that she did not agree to; that there could be serious physical and emotional consequences for his partner if she had an abortion at this late stage; and that what he was suggesting was illegal.

Thanks to Vathy’s strength and understanding this story has a happy ending. The man finally understood how wrong it was to try force his partner to do this. Vathy later heard that the couple were planning their wedding—a far cry from the original outcome could have been.

These activities are part of the Safe Homes, Safe Communities project. Safe Homes, Safe Communities is part of the Cambodia Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Program, a five-year partnership between the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). These activities by CARE as an EVAW partner are made possible with the financial support of the Australian Government.

Safe Homes, Safe Communities works with a number of valued project implementation partners, including: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, The National League of Communes in Phnom Penh, the Poor Community Development Office of Phnom Penh Municipality and other national and international institutions who are actively working together to end violence against women.

Learn more about Safe Homes, Safe Communities >

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