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The Cambodian Prime Minister Said Women Are To Blame For Sexual Violence Because They Dress Up Sexily On Facebook. What Even?

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If you thought India was a sexist, you’d be right. We are. Painfully so. Every day, we write about stories about the rampant misogyny in the country, and slowly but surely, we are ceasing to be surprised. So, we are widening our horizons. And this story about the Cambodian Prime Minister blaming women for sexual violence is right up there.

Bet you read that again. The thing is, victim blaming isn’t new- not any where in the world. Women are often told that the reason they are being assaulted, molested or raped is because of what they wore, where they were or because they inhaled too sharply. We will blame everything and anything but the men. Because why upset the apple cart, right?

And that’s exactly what happened except this time it was the Prime Minister of a country. So you would think he would be more mindful of what he says. But apparently, there is no need for such filtering when you can be tone-deaf.

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Sunset in Angkor Cambdia

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The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen was speaking to, get this, the National Council for Women where he despite the country’s many problems with regards to its women, deemed it fit to talk about how online sellers are putting the country’s culture at risk by wearing revealing clothing online while selling merchandise. He even ordered that the police go to these women’s houses and educate them.

In a country where there should be plenty more to be worried about, the PM chose to optimise resources by targeting women who are not even breaking a law. They are skimpily dressed on Facebook Live streams. Why this should be an issue of paramount importance is beyond us. We are stumped. And we are very sure that their culture isn’t threatened by a little show of skin.

Women’s organisations in the country have protested these statements and rightly so, they make no sense. In an open letter, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and ActionAid Cambodia said, “It is important to note that social values are arbitrary, relative, and constantly changing. Also, there is no evidence-based research that affirms that women’s clothing choice is the root cause of degradation of social morality.”

Other organisations have also stepped in. Amnesty International’s Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin released a statement regarding this saying, “Hun Sen’s assertion that women are to blame for sexual violence and human trafficking due to their choice of dress on Facebook is a despicable and dangerous instance of victim-blaming. This rhetoric only serves to perpetuate violence against women and stigmatize survivors of gender-based violence…The coerced moral ‘education’ of women by police is inherently arbitrary. None of these women have been accused of breaking any law, and the police appear to be acting solely on the basis of Hun Sen’s personal whim.”

To give the entire argument a little context, sellers in Cambodia often turn to live streams and Facebook promotions to sell their products that include makeup, clothing and accessories. These might have some show of skin, and often cleavage. Does revealing cleavage warrant an arrest? It would if Hun Sen has his way. Apparently he also alleged that showing skin could lead to sexual harassment and rape.

We could spend hours, days, years even talking about why rape isn’t the woman’s fault but we know it’s falling on deaf ears. We could type out articles till our fingers are tired to the bone, till ears are ringing but at this point, it seems futile. But we won’t stop. And we will not let men in positions of power allow to speak over us. Say it with us, ‘Rape isn’t a woman’s fault.’ ‘Get your culture out of our cleavage’

ALSO READ: In Gujarat, This Swami Said Women Will Be Born As Female Dogs If They Cook While On Their Period. Oh, FFS!


Mansi Shah is the resident humour writer and random conversation starter. Tends to laugh manically at puns. Deeply enjoys the blunt force of sarcasm. Preys on chauvinists and people with incorrect grammar. Hoards makeup and beauty products. Attacks Nutella with vigour.

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