Campaign Aims to Make City Safer for Women

Students, sex workers and beer promoters are expected to gather at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoon to highlight the need for better street lighting and more gender-focused urban planning in order to stamp out violence and abuse faced by women in cities.

In a statement released by rights group ActionAid, one of 11 organizations behind the “Safe Cities for Women” campaign, poor lighting, dark streets and inadequate policing, along with deeply rooted social attitudes, are some of the factors that make women afraid in urban areas.

According to Caroline McCausland, the country director of ActionAid, the campaign has been organized in response to “a high level of perceptions of fear,” particularly among women, during the night time hours in Phnom Penh and other urban areas.

“The level of actual violence is hard to determine, because people don’t report,” Ms. McCausland said.

“They are afraid of going to police and how they would be treated when they do go to report such crimes. Particularly, the most vulnerable groups are sex workers, garment workers, beer promoters and students,” she said.

“Largely, they are experiencing muggings and verbal abuse. They have a fear of the night.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said there are plans in place to improve street lighting.

“I think that public lights are very important and I acknowledge that there are some holes in public lighting,” he said.

Mr. Dimanche added that he didn’t think the issues faced by women in cities were widespread.

“Regarding the matter of feeling fear or unsafe, I think it is just a small number of the general population in the city,” he said.

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