Nearly half of young Cambodian men are willing to force their partner into having sex this Valentine’s Day, a study has found, stoking fears in a nation where perpetrators of sexual violence largely go unpunished.
Of the 376 male respondents in the survey, 47.4% said they were prepared to have sexual intercourse with their female partner on Valentine’s Day whether or not she was willing.
The figure was 14 percentage points lower than in a comparable study in 2009 by the same public health researcher, Tong Soprach.
The survey was small and not necessarily indicative of national trends, interviewing 715 male and female respondents aged 15-24 in the capital, Phnom Penh.
Tong told the Phnom Penh Post: “There has been a shift among Cambodian youth from viewing [Valentine’s] as a celebration of love to simply being a catalyst to have sex.”
His findings are in a similar vein to those of a UN report last year that said one in five Cambodian men admitted they had committed rape at least once, and more than half of those had done so aged 20 or younger.
Activists say Cambodia‘s rudimentary sexual education courses are insufficient in teaching young people about consent and safety. Despite the introduction of a new sexual and reproductive health curriculum last year, courses are taught in only one in three schools and thwarted by a severe lack of funding.
Pung Chhiv Kek, of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Consent of Human Rights (Licadho), said: “Forcing someone to have non-consensual sex is rape, and [the perpetrator] should be punished for that. Consent is very important.
“Most victims of domestic violence, when they come to us, if we ask them ‘did your husband rape you?’ they will say: ‘But I am his wife.’ We have to explain … he has no right to force you to have sex. There should be consent from you, and if he didn’t get that, then that is rape, and that should be punished by law. Women are reluctant to talk. The impunity is still there.”
In keeping with previous years, Phnom Penh’s police force is expected to patrol the capital’s guesthouses on Friday to cut down on so-called teenage lust.