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UN panel notes problems in bid to foster gender equality

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi speaks at the UN. MOWA

A UN women’s rights committee has praised the government’s efforts to promote gender equality and combat violence against women, but noted its concern that there are no provisions in the constitution that define direct or indirect discrimination against women.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on Monday published a 16-page report on its findings on the situation of women’s rights in Cambodia during its latest session from October 21 to November 8 in Geneva.

In the report, the committee commended the government for adopting various action plans and policies to improve its institutional and policy framework aimed at accelerating the elimination of discrimination against women and promoting gender equality.

It also suggested a range of recommendations for relevant public institutions, noting that there are no provisions in the constitution that defines direct or indirect discrimination against women.

The report said the Penal Code only prohibits certain forms of direct discrimination, such as denial of access to goods, services or employment.

“The committee also notes that recently-amended laws have not effectively addressed inequalities between men and women and regrets the lack of gender impact assessment when adopting or revising legislation,” it noted.

Despite efforts having been made to improve access to justice by women, particularly in rural areas, the committee reiterated its previous concern about the lack of court cases on discrimination against women and noted that there are significant barriers to women’s and girls’ access to justice.

“The committee recommends the government to take concrete steps to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and ensure that cases of gender-based discrimination and violence against women, including domestic violence and rape, are thoroughly investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted and adequately punished and victims are provided remedies,” the report said.

In a remark during the 74th Session Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on October 29, Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi said a definition of gender discrimination had been drafted as part of the National Gender Policy.

She said it covered areas including pay, access to resources and participation in decision-making. It was hoped that the policy would be adopted at the end of this year or early next year.

“Direct and indirect discrimination are punishable under articles 265 to 273 of the 2009 Criminal Code, and the 1997 Labour Law prohibits discrimination against any group,” Ms Kantha Phavi said. “Labour inspections are carried out on a regular basis by government ministries, the Human Rights Commission and civil society organisations, among others.”

She noted that specific measures had been taken to prevent multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women, especially against women living with HIV/AIDS, older women, migrant women, women living with disabilities, those living in remote and rural areas and indigenous women.

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