Study: Experiences of Gender-Based Violence in Urban Poor Rental Housing Communities of Phnom Penh

People in need

Published: February 2019

Efforts in recent years to close the so-called ‘gender rights gap’ in Cambodia have seen various forms of progress, such as women’s improved economic empowerment through increased labour force participation and the introduction of new laws and policies aimed at eliminating gender-based violence (GBV). Despite these important gains, myriad challenges remain. Gender inequality is a known key driver of GBV. For instance, studies show that the prevalence in a given society of a so-called ‘rape culture’ that normalises harassment and sexism, also normalises and excuses physical violence against women. Conversely, GBV serves to perpetuate gender inequality, as women are pressured to restrict their own mobility to avoid situations that may place them at risk of such violence. This interrelationship between gender inequality and violence requires that a holistic and multi-sectoral approach is adopted in combating GBV. Such an approach should seek to shift both male and female attitudes around violence, increase women's agency over their own sexual autonomy and bodily integrity, and reduce impunity for perpetrators.

While domestic violence is almost always recognised as a more common form of violence, many women in urban poor communities also experience GBV (including sexual harassment) in public spaces, often perpetrated by strangers or neighbours. Many more live with the fear of such violence occurring. The prevalence of such forms of violence leads to a restriction of women’s mobility and therefore limits their social and economic opportunities, and reinforces norms about women’s ‘natural place’ being inside the home. This study acknowledges that while both domestic violence and violence perpetrated by non-partners can take place in the same areas and can affect the same women, they manifest in different ways and spaces and are experienced and understood differently.

This research therefore examines the prevalence of and attitudes towards both types of violence as being distinct from one another, with some interesting results - for instance, while a majority of respondents find women are ‘somewhat to blame’ for violence committed against them by their husbands, the degree to which a woman is considered to blame for violence committed against her by a stranger was markedly lower (though still present).