Ahead of the national assembly elections in Cambodia, civil society organizations organized a debate with seven of the eight political parties to help inform voters about the parties’ commitment to women’s and children’s issues. Among the issues discussed were how to promote the rights of women and children and their access to justice and freedom of expression; encourage women’s participation in politics; preventing violence against women; increasing information about health care; and improving access to education. They also discussed the need to strengthen legislation and law enforcement to protect women from gender-based violence including trafficking and rape.
On July 3rd 2013, a group of civil society organizations (“CSOs”) jointly organized a national political platform debate on “Special Measures to Solve Women’s and Children’s Issues” (the “Debate”) in Phnom Penh. CSOs were pleased to welcome to the Debate representatives from seven of the eight political parties who are contesting the National Assembly elections to be held on Sunday July 28th 2013. The political party representatives were invited to present their parties’ political platforms with regards to special measures to solve women’s and children’s issues in Cambodia and specifically on the implementation of a quota system to increase the representation of women in politics at all levels of decision-making.
The Debate was jointly organized with the collaboration of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (“COMFREL”), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”), Committee to Promote Women in Politics (“CPWP”), PAZ Y DESARROLLO (“PYD”), Women for Prosperity(“WfP”) and the Women for All Network.
While some of the political party representatives put forward their party’s strategies to solve women’s and children’s issues, others did not address these issues separately from their general policies. Some of the political party representatives would not engage with the issue of a quota system to increase number of women’s political representation and disappointingly there was no clear commitment to a reform of electoral law.
In response to these proceedings, the joint organizing committee of the Debate made the statement: “We believe that this debate served as a key opportunity for voters to make informed decisions, ahead of the National Assembly Elections on 28 July 2013, as to whether political parties have provided special measures to solve women’s and children’s issues in their parties’ political platforms. We encourage all voters to go and vote according to their will or conscience.”
Following the Debate, the CSOs suggest that all political parties set up separate strategies and policies to specifically address women’s and children’s issues during the fifth mandate of the National Assembly. The CSOs recommend that the following be included in party policies:
The implementation of voluntary gender quotas within their internal party regulations as an immediate mechanism to increase the number of female candidates and the number of women on parties internal governing boards and in other decision-making structures within the parties;
Support for reform of electoral laws to include mandatory candidate quotas to ensure female representation at all levels of governance and politics;
The use of media networks to effectively to promote the rights of women and children, to ensure access to justice and to promote freedom of expression and information;
The provision of greater access to people especially to women to media sources across the country for the purposes of encouraging women’s participation in politics, promoting gender equality and non-discrimination, preventing violence against women and increasing information about health care;
The strengthening of legislation and law enforcement to better protect women affected by problems such as migration, trafficking, rape, and gender-based violence, to abolish the culture of immunity that exists around these crimes and to punish those who abuse their duties and responsibilities;
Improving women’s access to education as a means to improve opportunities for and capabilities of women to be represented in politics and in decision-making positions at all levels, as well as in other sectors; and
Implementing specific strategies to prevent high numbers of girls from dropping out of school.
The purpose of the Debate was to provide representatives of political parties with the opportunity to present and discuss their party’s political platform in relation to solving women’s and children’s issues, and to address issues identified by non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) and CSOs during previous discussions and development activities with citizens. The event provided Cambodian citizens, NGOs and CSOs with the opportunity to access information about women’s and children’s rights and demonstrated the need to vote in the National Assembly Elections 2013, to ensure action and policy change in regards to these rights.
The result of commune elections that were held in June 2012 the percentage of women who were elected to commune seats was 17.79%, according to the report from The National Election Committee (NEC) in Cambodia. This was an increase from the elections in 2007 which had only 14.6% women elected. The next commune seat elections are in 2015 and it is the Committee to Promote Women in Politics’ goal to have 25-30% of those elected women.