Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and assault. Local and international NGOs reported that violence against women, including domestic violence and rape, was common. Rape is punishable by a prison sentence of five to 30 years. Spousal rape is not specifically mentioned in the penal code, but the underlying conduct can be prosecuted as “rape,” “causing injury,” or “indecent assault.” Charges for spousal rape under the penal code and the domestic violence law were rare. The domestic violence law criminalizes domestic violence but does not set out specific penalties. The penal code can be used to punish domestic violence offenses, with penalties ranging from one to 15 years’ imprisonment. According to a report by Amnesty International, there was only one public hospital in each province and several larger hospitals in Phnom Penh that had adequate facilities to examine rape victims and issue certificates that were admissible as evidence in court.
As of October 2015, ADHOC received 183 reports of rape, three resulting in the death of the victim. Of these the courts tried 33 cases, local authorities mediated one case, and the remainder awaited trial. As of August ADHOC received 114 reports of domestic violence that resulted in serious injury. Reported cases of rape and domestic violence increased compared with the same period in 2014 but were likely underreported due to women’s fear of reprisal by perpetrators. In January the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs released the National Survey on Women’s Health and Life Experiences. It revealed that one in five women in the country experienced sexual and/or domestic violence. Cases of rape, according to the Ministry of Interior, increased by 12 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, despite an overall drop in crime. In a 2013 UN report, nearly 20 percent of 1,863 men interviewed admitted to raping a woman.
In July the Ministry of Women’s Affairs met with representatives from the government and civil society to discuss implementation of the Second National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women that treats the problem of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. The ministry announced a new reporting system within the government to increase accountability and transparency in cases where the government responds to violence against women. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs also coordinated with several NGOs and local media outlets to produce radio and television programming on topics related to women. The government also financially supported NGOs that provided training for poor women vulnerable to spousal abuse, prostitution, and trafficking in persons.
As of August ADHOC investigated 52 cases of domestic violence and 67 cases of rape, while the human rights organization Licadho investigated 62 separate instances of domestic violence and 33 instances of rape. NGOs reported that authorities did not aggressively enforce domestic law and avoided involvement in domestic disputes.
Sexual Harassment: The penal code criminalizes sexual harassment, imposing penalties of six days’ to three months’ imprisonment and fines of 100,000 to 500,000 riels ($25 to $125). A 2013 study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that one in five female garment workers had been sexually harassed. In May authorities demoted a senior official from the Ministry of Education after he sexually assaulted a South Korean interpreter assigned to him during an official visit to South Korea. Officials dropped charges after he paid fines equaling $12,300. Many activists claimed the punishment was too lenient; however, the ministry stated it based its decision to demote the individual on laws governing civil servants. There was limited information available on cases of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Women had access to contraception and prenatal care as well as skilled attendance at delivery and postpartum care, but it was often limited due to income and geographic barriers. According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate in 2015 was 161 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 170 deaths per 100,000 live births during 2014. Major factors influencing high maternal mortality rates included a shortage of adequate health facilities, medications, and skilled birth attendants. According to the 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, the modern contraceptive prevalence rate among married women between 15 and 49 years was approximately 39 percent, and 12 percent of women between ages 15 to 19 years had given birth or were pregnant with their first child.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, and equal status in marriage. For the most part, women had equal property rights, the same legal status to initiate divorce proceedings, and equal access to education and some jobs; however, cultural traditions and child rearing responsibilities limited the ability of women to reach senior positions in business or even participate in the workforce. Men comprised a significant majority of the military, police, and civil service.
Birth Registration: By law a child derives citizenship by birth to a mother and father who are not ethnic Khmer if both parents were born and were living legally in the country or if either parent had acquired citizenship through other legal means. Indigenous Khmer are considered citizens. The Ministry of Interior administered a revamped birth registration system, but not all births were registered immediately, primarily due to parental delay. Moreover, children born from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s often were not registered due to the civil war, Khmer Rouge atrocities, and subsequent Vietnamese occupation. Many of these unregistered persons, who later had families of their own, did not perceive a need for registration. It was common not to register young persons until a need arose.
Failure to register births resulted in discrimination, including the denial of public services. A 2007 study commissioned by UNHCR on statelessness in the country found that the birth registration process often excluded children of ethnic minorities and stateless persons. NGOs providing services to disenfranchised communities reported authorities often denied books and access to education and health care for children without birth registration. NGOs stated such persons often were unable to access employment, own property, vote, or access the legal system.
Education: Education was free, but not compulsory, through grade nine. Many children left school to help their families in subsistence agriculture, worked in other activities, began school at a late age, or did not attend school at all. The government did not deny girls equal access to education, but families with limited resources often gave priority to boys, especially in rural areas. According to international organization reports, enrollment dropped significantly for girls after primary school in urban areas, while post-primary school enrollment for boys dropped significantly in rural areas. Schools in many areas were remote, and transportation was a problem. This especially affected girls because of safety concerns in traveling between home and school.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was common and legal action against perpetrators was rare, according to observers. A 2014 study by the United Nations Children’s Fund found that 61 percent of female respondents and 58 percent of male respondents between 13 and 17 years faced domestic violence. Child rape continued to be a serious problem. ADHOC received reports of 99 cases of rape and attempted rape committed against persons younger than 18 years. Licadho investigated 116 rape cases, including four cases of gang rape.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for boys and girls is 18 years; however, children as young as 16 years may legally marry with parental permission. Culturally child marriage was not considered a problem. The government and a local NGO took steps to raise awareness of the legal minimum-age requirement.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 15 years is illegal. The government continued to raid brothels to identify and remove child sex trafficking victims, although the majority of child sex trafficking was clandestine, occurring in “indirect” sex establishments such as beer gardens, massage parlors, salons, karaoke bars, and noncommercial sites. Police continued to investigate cases of child sex trafficking that occurred in brothels or cases where victims brought complaints directly but did not typically pursue more-complicated cases. The government did not issue formal guidance allowing the use of undercover investigation techniques in trafficking investigations, and the lack of explicit authority continued to impede officials’ ability to hold child sex traffickers fully accountable.
The country remained a destination for child sex tourism. An NGO report released in 2015 examined the prevalence of children among persons in commercial sex establishments in three key cities and found that children comprised 2.2 percent of this population, compared with 8.2 percent in 2013. The government used the law to prosecute both sex tourists and citizens for exploiting children in prostitution. The law provides penalties ranging from two to 15 years in prison for commercial sexual exploitation of children. The law also prohibits the production and possession of child pornography.
According to a local human rights organization, perpetrators with ties to the government were not held accountable under the law, and local experts reported concern about the government’s failure to impose appropriate punishments on foreign nationals who purchase commercial sex acts with children. Endemic corruption at all levels of the government severely limited the ability of individual officials to make progress in holding child sex traffickers accountable, and the government took no action to investigate or prosecute complicit officials.
Displaced Children: The government offered limited, inadequate services to street children at a rehabilitation center. A local NGO estimated the number of displaced children remained similar to 2014, with 1,200 to 1,500 street children in Phnom Penh with no relationship with their families, and 15,000 to 20,000 children who worked on the streets but returned to families in the evenings. In addition 200 to 400 children lived with their families on the streets in Phnom Penh.
A 2014 government inspection found that 70 percent of 12,000 orphans living in state and private centers had parents or other relatives. The number of orphanages in the country increased from 155 in 2005 to 225 in 2014, of which the government operated 23. NGOs and other observers alleged many private orphanages were mismanaged and populated by sham orphans in order to lure donations from foreigners.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
A small Jewish foreign resident community lived in Phnom Penh. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination, neglect, exploitation, or abandonment of persons with disabilities. It includes persons with mental and intellectual disabilities in the definition of persons with disabilities and requires that public buildings and government services, including education, be accessible to persons with disabilities. The law does not address accessibility with respect to air travel or other transportation. The Ministry of Social Affairs has overall responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, although the law assigns specific tasks to other ministries, including the ministries of health, education, public works and transport, and national defense. The government requested all television channels to adopt sign-language interpretation for all programming. As of September only one major television station had sign-language interpretation. The Council of Ministers approved four subdecrees to support the law.
Programs administered by various NGOs resulted in substantial improvements in the treatment and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, but they faced significant societal discrimination, especially in obtaining skilled employment.
Children with limited physical disabilities attended regular schools. Children with more significant disabilities attended segregated schools sponsored by NGOs in Phnom Penh. According to an NGO, education for students with more significant disabilities was not available outside of Phnom Penh.
There are no legal limitations on the rights of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs, but the government did not make any concerted effort to assist their civic engagement.
The rights of minorities under the nationality law are not explicit; constitutional protections extend only to “Khmer people.” Citizens of Chinese and Vietnamese ethnicity constituted the largest ethnic minorities. Ethnic Chinese citizens were accepted in society, but societal animosity continued toward ethnic Vietnamese, who were widely deemed a threat to the country and culture. Some groups, including opposition political parties, made strong anti-Vietnamese statements and complained of political control of the CPP by the Vietnamese government, border encroachment, and other problems for which they held ethnic Vietnamese at least partially responsible.
In support of efforts by indigenous communities to protect their ancestral lands and natural resources, the Ministry of Land issued communal land titles to 11 indigenous communities comprising 752 families living on 22,378 acres of land. NGOs criticized the slow implementation of communal titling and continued to call for a moratorium on land sales and land concessions affecting indigenous communities. International and local NGOs were active in educating the indigenous communities about the land registration process and providing legal representation in disputes.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There were no laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct, nor was there official discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, although some societal discrimination and stereotyping persisted, particularly in rural areas.
There were no reports of government discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, statelessness, or access to education or health care. Consensual same-sex relationships, however, were typically treated with fear and suspicion by the general population, and there were few support groups to which cases involving discrimination could be reported. Unofficial discrimination against LGBTI persons persisted. According to a 2015 report on LGBTI discrimination in schools published by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, 62.7 percent of LGBTI respondents reported being bullied, 93.6 percent of whom claimed it was in response to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nearly 17 percent of those surveyed reported their teachers had bullied them.
A local LGBTI rights organization reported more than 100 incidents of violence or abuse against LGBTI individuals, including domestic violence by family members. Stigma or intimidation may have inhibited further reporting of incidents.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
According to a study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Heath Metrics and Evaluation, the number of persons in the country with HIV in 2015 was approximately 82,970, a 6.6 percent increase from 2014. A 2010 Demographic and Health Survey noted that 21 percent of women and 18 percent of men reported discriminatory attitudes towards those with HIV/AIDS. Following a 2014 incident in which an unlicensed medical practitioner unwittingly infected approximately 290 villagers with HIV, the victims reported widespread social stigma from fellow community members, some of whom refused to interact with the victims altogether.