Traditional Cambodian gender-based codes of conduct have reinforced differences between genders and disempowered women for generations. Despite the Government’s adoption of gender mainstream, conservative norms are still accepted in Cambodian society. As a result, women are heavily disadvantaged in terms of education, healthcare, rights and work opportunities.
From a very young age and especially in rural areas, girls and women face great pressure from their relatives to find work to support their families. They are influenced by family members to dropout of school, leave their home and find a better job abroad. Often due to family debt, women feel compelled to consent to decisions taken by parents or spouses and are sometimes forced to migrate without being given the choice of the nature and location of the work.
Cambodian women are particularly at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, labour exploitation and all sort of abuse due to lack of awareness and control over their migration situation. Trafficked victims are usually trapped in debt-bondage cycle with their brokers, as they are forced to pay living costs as well as protection and initial travel. Furthermore, the humiliation of the nature of the duties makes it difficult for the victims to speak out, search for assistance and share the burden of their ordeal. The stigma on women is enormous.