PHNOM PENH: Dinner is late. The laundry isn’t done. The pickles aren’t sour enough. When it comes to reasons for a man to beat his wife, Rem Ran has heard it all.
For most his 40 years, the construction worker saw domestic violence as “a normal part of life” in a nation where, until 2007, girls were taught in school not to challenge husbands via a traditional code of conduct still found in some textbooks.
Now he steps in when domestic disputes erupt in his rural community and is part of a nationwide drive to instil men as advocates for women’s rights, as Cambodia this month also launched a national plan to combat violence against women.
“I’ve seen so much rape and senseless violence against women,” Ran told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a workshop in Phnom Penh, where about a dozen men from the countryside were learning about gender equality.
“Usually, authorities overlook it – they say it’s a private matter that should be left to the couple at all costs – but we make it a collective issue and we advocate to authorities that it must stop.”
Ran is among 30 men coached by Gender and Development for Cambodia, a non-profit, to identify and root out violence against women by intervening in disputes, holding workshops and acting as a go-to for victims and authorities in communities.
Gender-based violence “comes from a mindset, an idea that is so deeply ingrained that it is almost impossible to retrain”, said Ran.
Campaigners have noted improvements in gender equality in Cambodia, which ranked 89th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index in 2020 compared to 112th in 2016.
But a series of events in the Southeast Asian nation last year drew condemnation from advocates around the world.