The woman– wife, mother, daughter, aunt, and grandma are the most important person in the family who is responsible for taking of the entire family’s members. To be a good woman, she–without any complains–has to follow Cambodian Women Code of Conduct “Chbab Srey” which is known as oppressive code for woman. According to the code, domestic work is the main woman’s responsibility. However, the Cambodian work force reflects these beliefs – women often hold administrative positions instead of project positions. Being women, it is often seen as inappropriate to take overnight field visits for work and seen as rude if women try to against what they think are wrong. These views relatively limit boundary for women to engage in social and economic activities.

Nowadays gender roles in Cambodia have been changing due to social and global women’s movements. Women are not only the care-taker, but they are additionally recognized as the family-protector. Many women are actively involving to protect their family’s and community’s rights. Meanwhile, they have to fight back to many challenged discourses including culture, tradition and patriarchy which always keep women under subordination and oppression.

Recently, there has been risen in violent committing against women rights’ defenders. Due to the general context of impunity, violence and criminalization of social protest that exists in the country, this particular violence is invisible and the gravity of its characteristics and consequences diminished. Women human rights defenders run a greater risk of being subjected to gender based violence, smear campaigns based on gender stereotype, violence within their family and communities, as well as scarce recognition for their work. Furthermore, they are perhaps forced to stop defending human rights after experiencing an attack. In November 2014, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) released the “Good Wives” report which reveals that women human rights’ defenders pay high price for their activism—suffering not only serious economic and emotional impacts but also often domestic violence and family breakdown.

As another example, a high profile woman human rights’ defender, Yaum Bopha, experienced both domestic violence and state violence against her such as authority and judicial abuses. Bopha was imprisoned for more than a year because of her activism. After her release, she was banned by her husband from being a rights defender which leaded to divorce. Bopha was locked in her home by her ex-husband because her ex-husband intended to stop her from being a rights defender. Her ex-husband wanted her to just stay at home and to look after family. During that time, Bopha was also abused by the local media that she has committed adulatory; nevertheless, her ex-husband and she clearly clarified that the report of local media was not true. (Yaum Bopha’s testimony with Cambodian Women Oral History Project, 2014).

Life of Women Human Rights Defenders documents the life of those rights defenders through using life story approaches, aims to contribute in empowering women human rights defenders and spread their struggling for sustainable development to the world. The transcript of the life stories and short inspirational videos/audios will be published online via this website.

The Life of Women Human Rights Defenders Project is based in Phnom Penh, and leaded by You Sotheary.

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