In the Cambodian context, as in most countries around the world, there appear to be significant tensions between the principles of gender equality advocated by women’s rights actors (especially relating to women’s sexual autonomy and reproductive rights), and those of culturally and religiously informed, ‘traditional’ gender norms.
These tensions have increased in recent decades, and are visible, for instance, in the difficulty that Cambodian women face in obtaining a divorce, often despite ongoing domestic abuse; in the government's suspension of young women pop stars and actors from their work, for wearing outfits deemed ‘too sexy’ and therefore going against Khmer culture; and lastly, to those everyday norms which often go unnoticed, but which consistently serve to favour men and discriminate against women. These norms reinforce the perceived validity of traditionally allocated gender norms, which prescribe roles of leadership and dominance to men, and caregiving or subordinate roles to women.
The pervasiveness of these norms remains a challenge for women’s rights actors – they are a barrier to the realisation of equality in rights and opportunities between men and women (and gender nonconforming people): A national survey undertaken by the United Nations in Cambodia in 2013 found that 63 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women agreed that men should have the final say in all family matters, while 82 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women reported believing that a woman’s most important role is to take care of her home and cook for her family.
Some 95 percent of Cambodians identify as Theravada Buddhist. So what, then, is the relationship between Buddhism and feminism in contemporary Cambodian society? To what extent do Cambodian people from different walks of life see them as inherently contradictory frameworks? Do many perceive them to be mutually reinforcing? What are the principles of each system that appear most contentious?
This research was co-created with different communities with lived experiences of the relevant issues (young women and Buddhist monks), and attempts to make a humble contribution towards a better understanding of these issues.
Table of contents
1.1 Research objectives
1.2 Research questions
1.3 Summary of key findings
2.1 Research objectives
2.2 Research questions
3. INHERENT GENDER EQUALITY(?)
3.1 Perspectives from the literature
3.2 Perspectives from respondents
4. INSTITUTIONAL GENDER ROLES
4.1 Perspectives from the literature
4.2 Perspectives from respondents
5. GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
5.1 Perspectives from the literature
5.2 Perspectives from respondents
6. SEXUAL/REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
6.1 Perspectives from the literature
6.2 Perspectives from respondents
7. REFLECTIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS
7.1 Pathways towards increased collaboration
8. KEY FINDINGS & CONCLUSION
8.1 Summary of key findings