Women’s rights groups on Wednesday slammed a government order on Cambodian women who wear provocative clothes while selling goods via Facebook live streams calling the move dangerous and baseless.
During a speech to the Cambodian National Council for Women on Monday, Hun Sen ordered authorities to take immediate action against women who wear “revealing” clothing while selling products on Facebook live streams, saying their actions were lowering Cambodian cultural values and were to blame for sexual violence.
“Go to their places and order them to stop live-streaming until they change to proper clothes,” the prime minister told the government’s Cambodian National Council for Women on Monday.
“This is a violation of our culture and tradition,” he said, adding that such behaviour contributed to sexual abuse and violence against women.
While Cambodia’s young population is increasingly educated, many expect women to be submissive and quiet, a legacy of Chbap Srey, an oppressive code of conduct for women in the form of a poem that was on primary school curricula until 2007.
After Hun Sen ordered authorities to track the women down and “educate” them, a representative of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications reportedly pledged to ask Facebook to block their profiles.
On Wednesday, the Commissariat of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police posted a video to Facebook saying a woman named Thai Srey Neang had been brought to a local police station for education, where she signed an agreement to stop wearing “revealing clothing,” and showed her apologizing for donning clothing that “disgraces Khmer traditions” and “affects the honor of Cambodian women.”
The same day, London-based Amnesty International and a group of Cambodian rights organizations issued separate statements condemning Hen Sen’s comments, with the former slamming authorities for apparently forcing Thai Srey Neang to “confess” her wrongdoings.
“Hun Sen’s assertion that women are to blame for sexual violence and human trafficking due to their choice of dress on Facebook is a despicable and dangerous instance of victim-blaming,” Amnesty’s regional director Nicholas Bequelin said.
“This rhetoric only serves to perpetuate violence against women and stigmatize survivors of gender-based violence.”
RosSopheap, head of the charity Gender and Development for Cambodia, said the government should look at the reasons why women sell goods online instead of dictating what they wear.
“They always talk about culture, culture, culture,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “What about jobs? What about education? These things are broken in Cambodia. And what about people’s right to make a living?”
Seven Cambodian women’s rights groups pointed out that the women vendors had breached no law.
“There is no evidence-based research that affirms that women’s clothing choice is the root cause of degradation of social morality,” they said in an open letter. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)