Issues

Mu Sochua believes, “Development is not progress till it is equally shared and not till women can be safe from violence and exploitation.”

MP Mu Sochua campaigns widely to defend the human rights of women through the adoption and full implementation of legislation against gender-based violence. Currently, Mu Sochua is directly battling gender-based discrimination in her own case, against Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen. (For a brief history click here) Further, for more than 25 years now, her work has focused particularly on the following issues:

Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children

There were 468 rape cases identified by the Cambodian police between November 2008 and November 2009, out of which 78% concerned minors under 18 years old. Many of these victims were also victims of incest, torture, gang rape and murder. In at least 34 of these cases, victims were raped and then brutally killed. Of 677 rape cases reported to NGOs in 2008, 67% of victims were rapes of minors under the age of 15. Among adult victims were elderly, mentally-ill and disabled women. Financial compensation is usually the informal resolution to rape: in early 2009, out of 201 rape cases, only 32.3% were handled through the justice system, 16% were illegally settled outside of court, and 51.7% were not even taken into consideration by the authorities for legal action.

MP Mu Sochua travels continuously around the country to sensitize villagers to the danger of trafficking and sexual violence, to pursue the prosecution of traffickers through a strong network of local organizations and to lead the fight against corruption of officials.  

Mu Sochua has not only been a strong advocate in her own country but also abroad. She recently participated in the production of a film-documentary on the prostitution of children and women, ‘Redlight’ (a Priority Films, 2010), and travelled to New York, USA, to attend the movie premiere and to sensitize the international community on the matter.

See following articles:

Culture of Impunity in Sexual Assault Must End Now

Redlight: A Powerful New Documentary on Child Prostitution in Cambodia

Urban and Rural Poor

Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia, with 30% of the population living below the national poverty line (of $0.45 a day) in 2007, and 68.2% of the population living on less than $2 a day. Further, on average, women still earn only $.068 for every dollar that men earn, and 58% of working women are unpaid family workers.

Young women from rural areas, with little formal education or skills training, migrate to find work in garment factories in urban centers; yet, recent massive layoffs in the garment industry notably have led many of them to find work as beer promotion girls, karaoke singers or sex workers, where they are increasingly vulnerable to physical violence.

Additionally, there is also a general lack of access to adequate health care services for the poor, especially the rural poor. For women in particular, maternal mortality rates in Cambodia are higher than any other country in the region: there are currently 472 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Cambodia, which means 5 women die in childbirth per day, and one woman dies every 5 hours. According to the World Health Organization, the major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion and obstructed labor. These are avoidable with proper care, yet only 44% of births take place with a skilled attendant, and only 22% take place in a health facility. Further, only 28% of people have access to improved sanitation and clean water. 

Moreover, a gender gap still remains in enrollment and literacy rates. The literacy rate for female youth (ages 15-24) was 79% in 2008, while the literacy rate for young males was 88%. This gap is exacerbated by poverty and rural living, as the idea that education is unnecessary for women and girls still prevails in rural areas. Dropout rates also tend to be higher for girls and in rural areas.

MP Mu Sochua advocates for the rights of Cambodians to improve their living conditions and gain lease hold rights to land. She also supports the development of communities for schools, health centers, sanitation and access to employment.

See following articles: 

On the Campaign Trail – Cambodia’s Last Frontier

Serving the People: Raising the Voices of Cambodian People Newsletter Dec. 2008

Land Rights

There were at least 11,600 victims affected by land disputes in 2009. Land disputes raise particular concerns for Cambodian women. When urban communities are forcibly evicted and relocated to remote areas lacking proper sanitation, jobs and food security, female heads of household (comprising 25% of the Cambodian population) suffer. Evictions also increase women’s vulnerability to further acts of violence as they are relocated to less secure, unfamiliar areas.

MP Mu Sochua advocates for the rights of tenants in her constituency of Battambang and throughout Cambodia, investigating evictions and land-grabbing first-hand, listening to villagers’ stories and supporting formal complaints.

See following articles:

German Language Article on Kampong Speu (Interview with Sochua)

The Struggle for Cambodia’s Territorial Sovereignty

Evicted AIDS Community

Women in Politics

As in the majority of countries around the world, women in Cambodia, have historically been largely absent from the political decision-making process. Today, Cambodia still holds a strong culture of disregard towards women’s qualifications, expecting them to subordinate themselves to men. A major breakthrough for women in overcoming barriers to their political participation started in the 1993 UN-sponsored elections. The number of women running as Members of Parliament has increased continuously at every subsequent election (in 1998 and in 2003). Cambodian women made history when their nation held the first Commune council Elections in 2002. For the first time in the history of Cambodia, people at the commune level were able to choose their local representatives. Today, 975 women are elected officials in Cambodia’s 1,621 communes, and this increasingly due to the SRP’s work.

However, women who serve in remote areas or who are not from the ruling party (the Cambodia’s People’s Party) face great exposure to physical danger, threats, political discrimination and even death. Further, Cambodian women are still regularly victims of discrimination and harassment, both emotional and physical.

As MP for the leading opposition party, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), Mu Sochua has worked tirelessly to put women at the forefront of Cambodian politics. Since its establishment in 2004, the SRP has not only battled for citizens’ freedoms, but also focused on women’s rights specifically, developing a Women’s Wing. In this, MP Mu Sochua has played a leading role and became the Wing’s President in 2009. The SRP’s Women’s Wing, with the support of the whole party, works forcefully in preparation for the next local election, with resources being mobilized to select local women to be trained for the next 2 years and to run for seats in the local commune councils. In total, the SRP aims to sponsor 1,500 women candidates. The selection of these outstanding future candidates takes Mu Sochua and her team of women to remote villages in all corners of Cambodia.

MP Mu Sochua has worked within the SRP as well as outside through civil society to push women on the political agenda. She has notably worked alongside Grassroots Women for Change (GWC), an NGO that was founded by Cambodian women politicians to build a movement of women in national and subnational politics. The organization has been working very hard to sensitize women to the need to link women’s lives to policies, and to give grassroots women a political voice and representation. In March 2010, it launched a radio program on FM 93.5, ‘Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices’ to create a platform for women to voice their concerns and advocate for their rights on issues that impact their lives.

See following article:

NYTimes: April 2010 – From California to Cambodia, Fighting for Women

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7 responses to “Issues

  1. Dear MP Mu Sochua,
    I am very happy to read about your defense against corruption and violence against women. I have a horrible story about corruption in Cambodia- this story is widely known, but no one has ever been willing to help.
    In 2009, my wife, a nurse , and I created an NGO to provide medical care to the poor people on Kampong Thom Province. With the assistance of MP Nhem Thavy, we repaired and opened an abandoned clinic at Chong Doung Village, near Kampong Thmarr. We were soon saving up to 100 people a day who otherwise had no medical care available. Although our service was free, we requested that the medicine that was supposed to support these community health centers come from the Min of Health, which is how it is should work for all of these clinics. Although the paperwork showed this medicine as being delivered, very little of it ever actually made it to our clinic. We ended up paying for nearly all the medicine out of our own pocket, and after 8 months, our own private funds ran out.

    We tried to understand why no medicine was coming from the Min of Health, and discovered a plot between the local doctor, Dr Meas Cham of the Baray-Santouk Referral Hospital, and his brother in law, Dr. Va Leoung Khun, Min of Health for Kampong Thom. Although this one small district showed 19 open Community Medical Centers, nearly all were closed and boarded up, or only opened a few hours a week. Their staffs and patients were fabricated to pad statistics, and all of their salaries and the medicines sent to them were sold in the doctors private clinics. It seems everyone was aware of this situation, but no one would act. This corruption was accepted as routine.

    We had hoped for assistance of the government to avoid this corruption. We personally treated VP NGuon Nhel and many officials family members. We were even visited by MP Ho Noun and begged for her help, and sent pictures of the many medical supplies being stolen at Baray-Santouk. MP Nhem told us that we needed to be patient as “you cannot clear a jungle in a day” but never moved to stop the corruption. It appears Dr Va Leough Khun was also related to officers in the Min of Foreign Affairs, who were angered that we did not pay their bribes for our paperwork. We were told to “Be careful, for ‘their friends are higher than your friends”.

    At a Min of Health meeting in October, Cara directly insulted these doctors who were stealing all the medicines. It was very upsetting for a woman to speak out this way Please understand, we ourselves had become hungry and angry over the corruption. We were spending the last of our own money for medicine, and the sick and dying children just kept coming, while we heard excuse after excuse about the continued thefts. Our own children were only eating once a day, and I myself lost 70 pounds because we spent al of our money on medicine that should have come from the MOH. Yes, she was angry.

    Within a week of her outburst, Cara was attacked while coming home from the clinic. Three men, who spoke English, grabbed her off the road from the clinic, beat her, gang raped her semi-conscious body for hours, wrapped her in barbed wire and dumped her in a rice paddy for dead. Amazingly, she survived. The police refused to believe her or even take a report. The local Police investigator, who had been to see us frequently prior to the attack, refused to come by at all. We went into hiding, and soon after actual police began to bully and harass our friends in several districts to try to find us (we were registered with the US Embassy, who did investigate and report that all this actually happened, and was not made up as stated by the Cambodian police).

    Since then NOT ONE Cambodian official will acknowledge us. MP Thavy has never answered another phone call of email. Paul Nou of the SRP asked what happened, and I wrote a personal narrative that someone quickly sent around the internet, which lead to many more attacks on us and our character. Although it was used by the SRP to show the corruption of the CPP, no one from the SRP stayed by our side to defend us.

    Nobel Prize winning author Joel Brinkley wrote about us in his recent book, Cambodia’s Curse. He got a few things wrong, but somewhat describes our ordeal. Earlier this year I cooperated with the World Bank, showing them several cases of corruption from The Kampong Thom MOH that helded them in their decision to pull funding.

    I will continue to fight against this corruption, and to defend my wife’s honor and the work that we did there. I am still in contact with many of our friends and families from our village, and will always do my best to assist them. I will NEVER accept that my wife deserved to be raped for what she said, or somehow the fact she is bipolar had anything to do with what was proven by the US Embassy to be an actual rape and attack. The comments made by officails afterward, and by trolls on the internet, hurt me deeply and dishonored the 10,000 people whose lives we saved. No one of these official sources will even mention the corruption at the base of the attack.

    Your profile shows you are a defender of human rights, women’s rights, and against corruption. I have searched for three years now for anyone with the fortitude to accuse these thieves, or stand up for the good we accomplished there. I beg for your help.

    James Garcia

    “Share the Health Cambodia”

  2. Dear Mu Sochua,
    I am a filmmaker and my film SISTER will screen at Cambodia International Film Festival December 8th at 7pm and December 10th at 4:15pm at the Bophanna Center.

    SISTER is an intimate portrait of the global crisis of maternal and newborn mortality, on the ground with maternal health workers in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti.

    I know the issues portrayed in the film are important to you and would love it if you could come to the screening.

    Kind Regards, Brenda Davis

  3. Hello Mu Sochua. I am very inspired by the work that you are doing. We run a program for international women in partnership with the United Nations Information Center. It runs for one week and we have women from all over the world that participate. This year in partnership with the UN women focus on violence against women we will be hosting various speakers who will talk about their leadership initiatives around women’s issues. I know you are probably very busy, but we would love to find a way to share your story with our students. We would love to SKype you in to talk to our students too! Thank you for continuing to do the work that you do.

    • thank you for the invitation. It depends when you want me to speak. I am in thee middle of my campaign for re-election but will try my best to find time. Please stay engaged and I salute you as students for your commitment to justice and to women’s rights.

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