Bill to ban women in Cambodia from wearing revealing clothes draws criticism

A proposed law that would let Cambodian police fine people deemed to be dressed inappropriately could be used to curtail women's freedoms and reinforce a culture of impunity around sexual violence, rights campaigners say.
August 06, 2020 | 06:35
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Women's rights campaigners raised their voices against the draft legislation. Photo: The Phnom Penh Post

Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ouk Kim Lek responded on Tuesday (Aug 5) to criticism concerning a draft law that would ban women from wearing overly revealing clothing, saying that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process.

According to The Phnom Penh Post, several people have criticized some points of the draft law such as banning women from wearing short and revealing clothing and men from taking off their shirts in public places.

Social media users submitted a joint petition opposing the ban. The users claimed that the law should be made to protect the rights of citizens, not to oppress them.

“Women should be able to use their fundamental rights and the right to express themselves by wearing the clothes they choose", the petition read.

“Blaming women for choosing to wear certain clothes supports the views that women are the main cause of the sexual violence they suffer. Therefore, it adds to a culture of impunity relating to violence against sexuality.”

Kim Lek told The Phnom Penh Post on Tuesday that the criticism will help correct and improve the law before it is passed.

"The draft law is still in its first phase and has been sent to capital and provincial administrations for review", he said.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and inter-ministerial groups will be invited to discuss the law before it is forwarded to the government for review and approval.

“Please look into its contents completely because it bans revealing clothing in public places. But they can wear such clothing in the privacy of their room or house as that is not banned, ” he said.

Kim Lek said the draft also contains articles to prevent abusive and immoral activities in society.

Bill to ban women in Cambodia from wearing revealing clothes draws criticism
The proposed law would ban men from going out shirtless and stop women from wearing anything "too short" or "too see-through". Photo: AFP

One such article bans minors under 18 years old from entering entertainment clubs, drinking beer or distributing and buying beer. Anyone who encourages minors to drink beer will be penalized according to the law.

Consisting of eight chapters and 48 articles, the draft bans all activities spoiling the beauty of public places such as drying or hanging clothes or other materials in public places close to the road or in any other place that may affect public order.

Pouring water, draining liquid or wastewater in public places would also be banned as would displaying or selling goods in public places without permission.

The unsafe connection and bundling of electrical wires and cables would be prohibited if the law passes while excessive noise at inappropriate times would draw a penalty as well.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said the Kingdom needs such a law to ensure public order.

However, he said the most important point is consulting all relevant parties, including the opposition, before passing the law. Hopefully, the law could be implemented effectively, he said.

Concerning the ban on wearing revealing clothing and undressing in public places, Chanroeun said such a ban would push the boundaries of government control.

When it comes to the safety of citizens, this law should focus on defining how clothes are worn and why they may negatively affect society.

“The matter of wearing clothes by citizens should not be stipulated in the law because the law is different from morality.

“The law is firm. If people do wrong, they will get punished accordingly. But when it comes to morality, if citizens don’t follow the [acceptable] practices, they will just get scolded or criticized by society, ” he said.

Chanroeun said the authorities should further educate citizens about good manners, communication and values, including when it is and isn’t appropriate to wear certain clothes.

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Cambodian authorities say that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process. Photo extracted from Phnom Penh Post's clip
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