Rape risk rises in Cambodia, says Amnesty International

By Guy DeLauney http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8554820.stm
BBC News, Cambodia

March 10, 2010

Human rights organisations in Cambodia have called for the government to tackle the rising incidence of rape.

A report by Amnesty International says victims have limited access to justice, medical services and counselling.

It claims that rape cases are often settled by cash payments to the victim - or bribes to the authorities.

Official statistics show a significant increase of the number of rapes reported to police last year - almost a quarter more than in 2008.

But Amnesty says the true figure may be much higher - because many victims never tell the authorities about their attacks.

Commander's block

Its report highlights a lack of faith in law enforcement officials and the judicial process.

One incident cited involved a policeman accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a karaoke bar.

His commanding officer refused to press charges - and insisted the attack could not be considered rape, as the woman had not been a virgin.

The government has acknowledged that sexual violence is a problem.

In a speech last week, the minister of women's affairs said there were increasing fears of gang rape.

She suggested that increasing access to alcohol, drugs and pornography was responsible.

Social workers say that a change in attitude towards victims of sexual violence is sorely needed.

Sun Maly runs a women's safe house in Battambang province.

"When they become victims of rape like this they become stigmatised by their own community. Especially in the case of children - when they've been sexually assaulted they drop out of school because of discrimination or embarrassment," she said.

Amnesty says that that many cases are currently settled by cash payments - or not pursued because the victim cannot afford to pay police and court officials.

It is calling on the authorities to make sure that those who commit rape or sexual violence are punished through the judicial process.