NGOs Call for Amendment to Nation’s Domestic Violence Law

A decade after the country’s domestic violence (DV) law was passed, the government continues to fail victims of abuse, a coalition of NGOs said in a statement released Friday, calling for the law to be amended.

“Ten years after the DV Law was passed, the limitations of the law have become apparent,” said the statement released by the human rights coalition NGO-CEDAW, which represents 70 organizations, along with other partner groups.

The statement comes after a recent nationwide survey revealed that one in five women who had been in a relationship were abused by their partner—with only 6.5 percent reporting abuse to the police.

“Many people, including local authorities, think that DV is a family problem,” NGO-CEDAW coordinator Chim Channeang said by telephone. “They say it’s not serious.”

The statement calls for mandatory protection orders against perpetrators, and broadening the law’s scope to include unmarried couples.

“Currently, local officials only give spoken warnings to abusers or ask them to sign a pledge not to be violent again,” the statement said. “Only a protective order or jailing the abuser will help.”

“Next, the law needs to be expanded to include not only spouses living with the abuser, but also unmarried partners and former partners,” it continued.

The current domestic violence law only applies to married couples, children or people sharing a household. Other cases are only punishable under the criminal code, with more lenient sentences.

However, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said that the existing laws were adequate.

“In terms of the law, it’s OK. We have enough laws to protect women’s rights against domestic violence,” Mr. Malin said. “The problem is the law enforcement.”

Ministry of Women’s Affairs adviser Khieu Serey Vuthea disagreed, saying that the domestic violence law was due for a review.

“We keep in mind that it has already been 10 years. It should be enough, but we learned from the implementation of that law [that there are] some points to be reviewed,” she said.

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