Community Initiative to Combat Violence Against Women

Project Executive Summary
In 2008-2010 with funding support from the UNDP’s Acess to Justice for Women, Legal Aid of Cambodia “LAC” provided legal represention to women who are survivors of gender based violence Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang and Siem Reap. Before the project started it was very hard for female victims to receive fair trials and many perpetrators were beyond the not-so-long arm of the law. This situation of impunity had led to repeated, new, or more serious violence against women. When the project was first introduced in those target provinces, there were few cases of gender based violence because women were discouraged by the corruption and lack of appropriate supports from reporting the violence to the authorities and concerned NGOs. At the end, the project represented 210 cases, 112 of which were solved. Of those cases, approximately 33 percent were rape; 32 percent divorce. The evaluation of the project concluded that “the project delivery services were excellent” and recommended that “there is a great need for legal services for women, and these services should be continued and expanded”.

With our great efforts, LAC through its Women’s Justice Program (WJP) has continued to work in Siem Reap and extended services to three other provinces of Battambang, Pailin and Kampong Thom.

In Siem Reap, LAC’s existing project focuses mainly on legal services to survivors of gender-based violence throughout the province rather than building capacity of local authorities and community on women related laws and gender-based violence issues. When meeting with local authorities, they admitted that they do not have enough capacity on the GBV issues and need legal training to improve their performance. At the same time, they dully need resourceful organisations to provide legal outreach on GBV to community members and high school students so that they are empowered to exercise their rights accordingly.


Project Background:
Based on the needs identified in the DCWC meeting in Siem Reap as well as Chi Kraeng District, concerned officials always ask LAC to provide legal training on women related law to law enforcement officers and legal outreaches in the community levels.  Local authorities, especially at the commune and village levels, have low legal legal capacity to empower women and protect their rights and community women lack of legal awareness.

The lack of legal awareness and empowerment lead women to vulnerable condition in which some forms of violence against women happen to them. To help address the problems, it indicates a need for legal training to local authorities, legal outreaches, and women’s rights empowerment to the communities.

The study by CDRI, April 2015 indicates that the prevalence rates of men’s violence against women vary huge. It recommends that the elimination and prevention of violence against women will require commitment and a comprehensive strategic approach that involves all relevant development partners. The study finds that there is a high number of gender-based violence, especially domestic violence in Chi Kraeng Commune. In the meantime, the ICS based-line study finds that domestic violence is a big issue in Chi Kraeng. It stated: ‘findings of a new big study by the UN, have revealed that around one third of Cambodian men who have ever had a partner, have admitted to having perpetrated physical and/or sexual violence on a woman’. The report confirms that neither Village Chiefs nor the Commune Chief were able to give us accurate records of the number of cases of domestic violence they had dealt with in the previous month or year. The ICS study also finds that respondents spoke about little sexual violence by partners based on the fact that “women do not want to report sexual violence to police. They do not want the police to know. They are worried about the shame for the husband, said a village chief”. It also reveals that another potential reason for the limited discussions about sexual violence, may relate to the fact that although marital rape is the most common form of rape in Cambodia (P4P, 2013), it has not yet been criminalized; this absence of legal sanctions reinforces the notion that a woman’s body belongs to her husband, and that pressured sex in marriage is therefore an acceptable norm. This point is reflected in the recent UN study (P4P, 2013) ‘feeling entitled to have sex, regardless of consent (sexual entitlement)’, was the most common factor (45%) that Cambodian men gave for raping their partner. Furthermore, this study reported a strong belief by both men and women that ‘if a woman doesn’t fight back it’s not rape’ (men n=65%, women n=82%), with and 42% of Cambodian men (42%) and women (50%) thinking ‘a woman cannot refuse to have sex with her husband’. It is however important to note, that a number of cases of violence against women were reported to have been caused by women’s refusal to have sex, and men’s accusations of their partner’s infidelity. It is possible that these cases may have resulted in sexual violence, even though respondents of our study did not label the violence this way.

Based on one evaluation of LAC’s 2010 project recommended that “there is a great need for legal services for women, and these services should be continued and expanded”. Survivors of gender-based violence may encounter many problems in their attempts to access justice, including bribery and corruption, a male-dominated criminal justice system, the prevalence of extra-judicial settlements, difficulty in providing forensic evidence, inadequate law enforcement and prosecution (in criminal cases), and a lack of social support services for survivors (including medical and psychological services). It can be hard for women to be aware of their rights and female victims to receive fair trials, and perpetrators can appear to be beyond the reach of the law. Shortages of legal aid are a particularly significant problem because gender-based violence has been linked to poverty, and survivors of gender-based violence may be unable to proceed with their case if they cannot access legal aid. Therefore, there is a pressing need for legal services to be extended, including a referral system to ensure women can access related social services.​ Additionally, some coordination actions must be taken to increase legal capacity on women related laws to local authority officers to apply their role accordingly and raise legal awareness among community villagers and high school students to empower them to protect themselves and their communities. LAC believes that the proposed methodology will help address the issues mentioned above.

Proposed Project Methodology:

Overall Objective:

To empower and protect the rights of women from gender based violence in Chi Kraeng Commune.

Specific Objectives:
The Project has the following specific objectives:

  1. Ensure that the local authorities in the target commune have improved their legal knowledge concerning gender-based violence and complaining mechanism are in place to support the survivors.
  1. Survivors of gender-based violence, communities and high school students are empowered to exercise their human rights.
  1. Women who are survivors of gender-based violence in Chi Kraeng Commune receive proper legal advice, assistance and representation within the Cambodian justice system.
          1. Outputs:
  1. Local authority officers take part in training in which their legal knowledge of GBV is increased. Three legal trainings are provided to the Chi Kraeng Commune local authorities and 90 local authority officers benefit from the trainings.
  2. Community members and high school students well understand GBV issues and able to protect their own rights. 28 community legal outreaches are organised and approximate 1400 community members participating in the outreach sessions. Community forums will be conducted in every two months for people concerned to GBV to ask and share questions and local authority officers and project staff to provide possible solutions. The community forums reach at least 300 community villagers. Six legal outreaches are conducted in high schools attended by 300 students.
  3. GBV Survivors Network members take part in training in which their knowledge of laws and issues of GBV. GBV Survivors Network members take part in training in which their understanding of how to mobilize and mitigate the risk of violence is increased. GBV survivor network is established with approximate 30 members.
  4. The survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) receive a fair outcome through either the court system or through civil mediation. 30 of cases of GBV survivors are advised and/or represented within or outside the court system.
          1. Outcome:
              1. Increased of knowledge of laws and other mechanisms of GBV among local authority officers.
              2. Community members and high school students well understand GBV issues and able to protect their own rights;
              3. Increased knowledge and empowerment of rights of women who are members of  the GBV Survivors Network  in the community. Increase the capabilities for mobilization within the community, with emphasis on mobilizing members of GBV Survivors Network.
              4. The rights of GBV Survivors who are survivors of GBV are protected. 30 cases of survivors have been protected to receive fair outcomes.

Target group and target area (including intermediaries)

  • Local authority officers are key actors in the proposal under which their duties are legitimised to govern and monitor gender-based violence. They will benefit from the legal training on women related laws, alternative dispute resolution, complaint mechanism and case follow up.
  • Survivors of GBV, community members and high school students are direct target groups. Community members and high school students are provided with legal outreaches on women related laws to be aware of in order to prevent gender based violence in the community. Survivors of gender-based violence are provided with legal assistance so that they feel secure throughout the process, either inside or outside the court system. At the same time, survivors of GBV are selected on random basis to be members of GBV Survivor Network so that they can be built up and mobilised to help free the community from gender-based violence.
  • Local NGO and CBO will also be build stronger coordination network to combat violence against women or gender-based violence. They can be involved in the project through legal training, community forum and legal outreaches. They will mobilise their resources directly or indirectly with issues of gender-based violence.

Activities to be Undertaken:
To achieve the goal and specific objectives, the project employs the following activities:

  1. Provide legal training to the target commune authority officers on women related laws, alternative dispute mechanism and complaint procedures. Methodologies for the training can in include student-centered, communicative approach, pre-test and post-test to assess participation legal ability before and after the training. Participants of the trainings are from concerned officials responsible for women and children, two representatives from each village and NGO staff in the target commune.
  2. Conduct community forums on gender-based violence every two months. The topics identified for the forums are in the scope of gender-based violence. The chair and speakers in the forums are composed of commune chief, commune gender focal point, project staff and representative of Chi Kraeng DCWC. Participants will be invited from those who have experience GBV, especially DV, village chiefs and some identified model persons from all villages of the target commune. Youths and high school students are also encouraged to attend the forums.
  3. Provide legal outreach to community on women related laws and their basic rights. Monthly legal outreach programs conducted in each village. Villagers, especially from the high risk of GBV and model families and men are invited to attend the outreach. The legal outreaches can be conducted with the commune gender focal point. The purpose of the outreach is strengthening the rule of law, promotion of human rights, fight against gender equality and women empowerment. Those attending the outreach can share the knowledge to their neighbours to prevent their community from all forms of violence against women.
  4. Provide legal outreach to high school students on women related laws and their basic rights so that they can gain legal awareness. Students who have attended the outreaches can share legal knowledge to their peers, families and communities. Students are encouraged to report incidents of gender-based violence to local authority and NGOs. The project staff will work closely with management of the high school to ensure that legal outreach in high schools are more effective.
  5. Establish GBV Survivor Network whose members are women who have GBV experience. The members are selected randomly from all villages of the commune based on experience and their potential. They will have regular legal training on women related laws, substantially and procedurally. In this way the project put great effort to empower them in order to avoid them from being re-victimised. At the same time, the GBV Survivor Network will meet regularly in order for them to discuss issues of concern they are facing and also discuss potential priority issues they may contribute to combat GBV in the communities. Ultimately, the GBV Survivor Network will become the permanent GBV Focal Persons and being able to mobilise effort to combat GBV in the communities.
  6. The project staff and commune judicial police, commune chief, and commune gender focal point will attend regular meetings with criminal justice stakeholders meetings at the provincial level. The meeting will be presided over by the prosecutor and concerned representatives from relevant provincial departments and district offices will be invited to attend. The meetings will discuss facing issues concerning cases of survivors of gender based violence and children. The meeting will expedite the status and due process of the cases. The purpose of sending these officials to attend the meeting is to open opportunity for them to learn the ways of GBV are handled and addressed through the province. Moreover, what they learnt from the meetings can be replicated in their commune.
  7. The project provides quality legal representation to women and girls who are survivors of gender-based violence so that they can receive fair trials and reasonable civil compensations. The cases can be settled inside and outside the court system. The outside court cases are settled in cooperation with concerned local authorities at commune or district levels. Some cases are settled out of court and the parties agree on proposed conditions. The project can assist the two parties to obtain binding agreement from the court that can be enforceable in a wider scope.  The inside court legal representation cases are fully supported by the project staff from the beginning to the end of the procedure which includes: interviewing clients, assisting clients to file complaint, legal investigation in order to collect all evidence supporting the cases; assisting victims of sexual violence to obtain forensic certificate; attending the trial representing the clients in court; and assisting the clients to enforce the judgements. All case results and status are entered into the case database and case management systems. The in court cases, the project will refer the cases to the GIZ funded Access to Justice for Women Project. In cases representation, the below criteria must be met:
  • In case of domestic violence (misdemeanour) in which the survivors want to mediate the dispute with their husbands, the project staff – particularly advocacy officers – will work with local authorities including the Commune Gender Focal Point, Commune Chief / Councillors and Commune Administrative Police Post or CCWC or/and DCWC to mediate the parties and facilitate further attempts at living together. At mediation stage, perpetrators will be asked to sign a contract stating a commitment to cease any further domestic violence. At the same time, warning letters will be issued by police post, CCWC and / or DCWC to the perpetrators. If perpetrators ignore the warning, survivors may file divorce proceedings or criminal complaints against them as described below.
  • In cases of divorce, the lawyer will assist the client in all matters involved, including the legal divorce itself, spouse support, division of assets/debts, child support, child custody​ and child visiting rights. Actions may include applications for injunctions, initiating cases and appeal procedures. For cases outside the court system (including unregistered marriages) where parties have agreed to end the de facto relationship, the lawyer will submit the case to the court requesting for property division, child custody, spouse support, child support and child visiting rights.
  • In cases of violence against women, the lawyer will assist the client to address the crime committed against them, ensuring a fair trial for the client and justice for the perpetrator. This may include filing a complaint with the police, requesting for forensic certificate (if rape and other related cases), urging the police and the prosecutors to undertake action against the perpetrator, liaising with the investigating judge, obtaining a restraining or protection order, attending trials and referral of the client to other service providers or NGOs for other services they need such as safe houses, psychological support, health treatment, etc.

4. Networking and Cooperation
CIC-VAW cannot reach its objectives by working alone. The project works closely with clients, their families, local authorities (CCWC and DCWC), judicial police, health center and if possible with POWA, Provincial Social Affairs, Provincial Health Department, NGOs and court officials, especially the prosecutors. The connections with these stakeholders make through cooperation, meeting, interview, cases representation and client referral.

  • Ongoing communicate with clients and their families in order to find ways to assist the clients effectively. The project staff also assesses the client’s need so that they can be referred to other partner organizations for social services, medical treatment, mental health services, vocational training and reintegration. The project staff will inform the clients about the case status as needed.
  • Develop and maintain good relationship with local authorities, health center and commune judicial police in order to gather important documents supporting the case of gender based violence. Strong cooperation with these duty bearers will encourage them to quickly assist the GBV survivors and timely take action against perpetrators.
  • If necessary for the higher scope, work cooperatively with POWA and Social Affairs to request for intermediate interventions.
  • Works closely with Provincial Health Department/Provincial Forensic Committee in order to get survivors of sexual abused examined and forensic certificates are produced to support the cases.
  • Work with the court to legally represent the client and for their best interests.
  • Work closely with other legal aid NGOs to foster high impact litigation cases. Joint investigation can be conducted to get stronger evidence for some selected cases.
  • Work closely with social, medical and mental health care NGOs for clients’ referral for services they need.