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“’Like Ghost Changes Body’: A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime,” with Judith Strasser, Thida Kim, and Sopheap Taing (Phnom Penh: Transcultural Psychosocial Organization of Cambodia, 2014)

Authors:
Theresa DE LANGIS, Judith STRASSER, Thida KIM, Sopheap TAING
TRANSCULTURAL PSYCHOSOCIAL ORGANISATION
OCTOBER
2014
A Study on the Impact
of Forced Marriage under
the Khmer Rouge Regime
“Like ghost changes body” - A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the
Khmer Rouge Regime
This project was conducted by Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia
(TPO) from February 2014 to September 2014. It was inspired by previous work
conducted by TPO in partnership with Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP) and
the Victims Support Section of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of
Cambodia (ECCC) concerning gender-based violence during the Khmer Rouge
regime. The research was funded by Civil Peace Service of Deutsche Gesellschaft
für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia (TPO)
Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia (TPO), established in 1995,
is Cambodia’s leading NGO in the eld of mental health care and psychosocial
support. It is the only psychosocial organization in Cambodia engaged in transi-
tional justice activities in the context of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts
of Cambodia (ECCC). Since 2007, and based on a Memorandum of Understanding
with the ECCC, TPO has been providing comprehensive psychosocial services to
ECCC Civil Parties. These range from on-site support at the tribunal, culturally-sen-
sitive trauma therapy and self-help groups to truth-telling activities and research
projects. TPO also has many years of experience in designing and implementing
community-based programs aimed at combatting and preventing gender-based
violence in Cambodia.
Gender-Based Violence during the Khmer Rouge Regime
This report can be downloaded in English and Khmer from the following website:
http//:gbvkr.org/gender-based-violence-under-khmer-rouge/. The websites hosts
a range of research and resources on sexual and gender-based violence during
the Khmer Rouge regime, including audio and lm recordings.
Cover: A Page of an Art Book (2013), collage and hand-colored stamp on paper, by
Chath pierSath
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
LIKE GHOST CHANGES BODY
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage
under the Khmer Rouge Regime
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Acronyms
Executive Summary - 009
1. Key ndings - 012
2. Recommendations - 017
Introduction & Background - 021
1. Concept of traditional marriages in the Cambodian context - 024
2. Marriage during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) - 028
3. Marriage after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime (post-1979) - 031
4. Forced Marriage as a crime before the ECCC - 034
Methodology - 037
1. Objective of research - 038
2. Research design - 038
3. Limitations - 041
Results - 043
1. Survey (quantitative) ndings - 044
a. Respondents’ demographic characteristics - 044
b. Marriage before the Khmer Rouge regime - 045
c. Marriage during the Khmer Rouge regime - 048
d. Marriage after the Khmer Rouge regime - 058
e. Impacts of forced marriage - 064
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings - 067
a. Marriage before the Khmer Rouge regime - 068
b. Forced marriages and enforced conjugal relations under the Khmer Rouge regime - 074
-Commitment ceremonies and marriage assignments - 074
-Forced conjugal relations - 078
-Resistance and punishment - 084
c. Marriages after the Khmer Rouge regime - 087
d. Impacts of forced marriage - 096
Discussion & Recommendations - 101
1. Key ndings - 102
2. Recommendations - 107
Dedication & Acknowledgments - 111
Glossary - 114
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
Table of contents
9
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
I
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
CDP Cambodian Defenders Project
CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women
ECCC Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
TPO Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia
UN United Nations
UN SCR 1325 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women,
peace and security. Other related resolutions include UN SCR
1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106 and 2122.
ACRONYMS
1110
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Nearly 40 years after the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979)
the forced marriages and enforced conjugal relations experienced by thousands
of Cambodians continue to be little understood as a central part of the general
atrocity. These marriages eliminated choice, were without consent, and took place
within a context of severe coercion. They deprived victims of the basic right to
self-determination in a central life decision, and in many cases they resulted in
sexual and physical abuse, psychological trauma, economic deprivation, reli-
gious exclusion, and social discrimination. The consequences of the Khmer Rouge
policy continue until today.
This small-scale, mixed-method study was undertaken to better understand the
impact of forced marriages from the Khmer Rouge period until the present. The
research adopts a gender-responsive, trauma-informed approach in providing a
description of how the Khmer Rouge policy was implemented and received by
victims within the Cambodian cultural context and as part of a specic system
of gender identity and roles. The report aims to contribute to a growing body
of research on gender-based violence under the regime, long neglected as a
scholarly, legal, or development focus, and often suppressed in public historical
discourse about the atrocity.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) were established
in 2006 to bring the surviving senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge state to justice.
Forced marriage, and the rapes that occurred within those marriages, will be tried
by the ECCC as an other inhumane act” under crimes against humanity as part
of Case 002-02, which started with the initial hearings on 30 July 2014. Recently,
these same crimes have also been requested by the prosecution to be part of
investigations for upcoming Case 004.
Deeper understanding of forced marriage and its impacts is therefore timely and
relevant. This report hopes to contribute to a greater understanding of these
marriages, as well as to provide a basis for discussions about meaningful repa-
rations for victims. Such reparations, the report’s ndings suggest, should aim
to accomplish societal transformation of cultural norms that perpetuate and
normalize sexualized and gender-based violence in times of conflict and in
post-conict within Cambodia.
The research study is based on interviews with 106 Civil Parties to Case 002
about their experiences of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge regime. All
of the participants were interviewed via a quantitative structured survey with
limited opportunity for open-ended responses. Additionally, nine respondents
in the total sample were interviewed using thematic open-ended questions to
form the basis for eight qualitative case studies (with one case study including a
forced-married couple interviewed together). Interviews were conducted con-
dentially and with psychosocial support to mitigate re-traumatization while
discussing this sensitive topic. The Transcultural Psychosocial Organization of
Cambodia (TPO) was the lead organization for the research, with respondents
selected among the general group of Civil Parties and clients of TPO and the
Cambodia Defenders Project (CDP) as part of a jointly implemented program
on gender-based violence under the Khmer Rouge regime. An international
specialist on sexual violence in conict was commissioned to write the report and
was also a member of the research team.
The introduction of the report, Section 2, provides a review of available research
on traditional marriage practices previous to the Khmer Rouge period before
presenting an inventory of published research on forced marriages under the
regime, the impacts of these forced marriages after the fall of the regime until
today, and the approach of the ECCC and other bodies—both national and inter-
national—to address these impacts. The introduction provides context to the
ndings of the present research, both quantitative and qualitative, the results
of which are presented in the body of the report under Section 4. The report
concludes, in Section 5, with a discussion of how the current ndings validate,
diverge from, or extend the present body of knowledge on how the Khmer Rouge
forced marriage policy was operationalized, as well as how its “meanings” were
received and impacts negotiated by those forced to marry. Section 5 concludes
with recommendations to a range of stakeholders in considering approaches
to address the long-term consequences of this widespread sexualized gender-
based crime as part of transitional justice and on-going development eorts in
Cambodia.
I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Executive summary
1312
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Key ndings
The most signicant nding resulting from the study is that, as a pervasively insti-
tuted policy of the Khmer Rouge state, forced marriages and enforced conjugal
relations stripped people of the fundamental right to choice and consent. In
doing so, it perpetuated a culture of rape and abuse, especially for women, by
which sexualized gender-based violence, particularly in marriage and for punish-
ment, was normalized via state policy and with impunity. The impacts of these
violations continue to be felt by victims until today.
Other signicant ndings based on the research are listed below.
Marriages before the Khmer Rouge regime
Traditional marriages in Cambodia were most often arranged, by consent,
by parents for their children. For men, who initiated the proposal, choice was
provided; both men and women were customarily asked to consent to the
match before the wedding took place. While half of respondents married before
the Khmer Rouge reported that their traditionally arranged marriage was not
their choice, none of these marriages were described in the sample as coercive,
even when family pressure exerted great inuence.
Traditional Khmer weddings were a means to validate and legitimize the union
in the eyes of the community, the family, and, for the largely Buddhist popula-
tion, in the ancestral realm. Traditionally, weddings and marriages were also a
way to demonstrate the respect and obedience of children to parents, and both
a marriage and the wedding event itself held spiritual meaning. For Buddhists,
this included karmic consequences related to past and future lives.
Forced Marriages during the Khmer Rouge regime
The widespread and systematic state practice of forced marriage and enforced
conjugal relations as described by the respondents, coupled with the severe
impact on the physical and mental well-being of victims, constitutes a crime
against humanity.
According to case study interviews, “forced marriage” is understood by
respondents to represent at least three distinct oenses: the loss of choice and
consent; the loss of the traditional wedding ceremony with family and ancestral
spirit participation; and enforced conjugal relations, which lasted the duration
of the regime.
The wedding procedures of the Khmer Rouge were a radical departure from
traditional consensually arranged marriages and weddings. Angkar (Khmer
Rouge leadership) took over the role of parent for the population. Angkar
assigned spouses and Khmer Rouge cadre violently enforced participation in
wedding procedures and conjugal relations, often between virtual strangers.
Parental participation and ancestral rites were excluded, resulting in karmic
consequences.
Resistance to forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations was common.
The majority of respondents (70.2%) refused requests to marry at least once,
but in the end virtually all (97.2%) were forced to marry, and virtually all (97.0%)
reported the marriage was not their choice.
Penalties for refusing to marry or to participate in enforced conjugal relations
included verbal threats and actual physical punishment, such as beatings, rape,
sexual slavery, and death.
Mass forced marriage procedures (involving three to hundreds of couples) were
organized, systematic and widespread, as described by case study respondents.
The case study interviews indicate that many men had opportunity to request
a spouse during the regime, this being reported by half of all responses. The
other half of matches was described as arbitrarily assigned.
Nearly half (46.5%) of all survey respondents reported knowing each other
or about each other at the time of the wedding procedure and case studies
suggest that this may have been only indirectly or through social and kinship
networks. The availability of such networks may have provided “old” people an
advantage over “new” people, with preferential treatment of the former also
reported in case studies in terms of the wedding procedure itself.
1. KEY FINDINGS
I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1514
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Strategic survival choices were common during the Khmer Rouge regime,
including complying with the forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations
out of fear of punishment or death. These choices had traumatic material and
psychological consequences for women in particular, due to proscribed cultural
codes of conduct and subordinate gender status.
Forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations are forms of sexualized
gender-based violence. As such, the system of marriage under the Khmer
Rouge was described as fitting a state-enforced culture of rape—rape was
normalized and perpetrated with impunity, especially within marriage and for
punishment. Types of rapes described included marital rape, gang rape, sexual
slavery, and rape assisted by or perpetrated by state actors.
Khmer Rouge forced marriages may have been unique in compelling husbands
to rape their wives as a means of securing their own survival. One case study
describes Khmer Rouge cadre aiding and abetting the rape of a wife by her
assigned husband.
Nearly one-quarter (24.5%) of all forced marriages are reported to have
involved spousal abuse. Those marriages existed during the other extreme
hardships of the atrocity, lasted beyond the regime, and some remain intact
today.
A great majority of all forced marriages (76.2%) are reported to have resulted
in the birth of children, with nearly half of respondents (44.9%) having four or
more children. Husbands are sometimes mentioned as providing vital survival
support during a wife’s pregnancy.
Case studies suggest a spike in forced marriage in the second half of 1978.
Case studies point to reproduction of the population as motivation for forced
marriages. Significantly, one case study respondent mentioned the political
ambition of local Khmer Rouge leaders as motivations for forced marriages and
enforced conjugal relations, suggesting higher-level leaders knew about and
incentivized implementation of the policy.
Marriages after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime
Following the fall of the regime, no generalized national policy existed to
address the status and consequences of forced marriages. Yet, marriages forced
by the Khmer Rouge had a dramatic impact on marriage practices immediately
after the regime’s fall and decades following.
The research suggests that forced marriage was one of the contributing factors
to increased domestic abuse (in a context of continued civil conict and mobi-
lization of husbands) and high rates of desertion, polygamy, remarriage, and
female-headed households following the fall of the regime.
More than one-half of all respondents (53.1%) stayed in their forced marriages
after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, largely motivated by children born
in the marriage, as described in case studies. Other motivations to stay in the
marriage included pity, trans-generational karmic consequences, the impor-
tance of shared traumatic experiences during the regime, and, after all, love.
Some intact forced marriages remained together due to abuse, with a spouse
unable to escape.
Many of the forced marriages that remained intact are reported as dysfunc-
tional, with more than half (52.9%) in the survey sample reporting spousal
abuse—one, as discussed in the case study analysis, is experiencing continued
spousal rape until today.
The majority (70.0%) of those who dissolved their forced marriage after the
regime eventually remarried. Among those who did not remarry after the
regime, 72.2% reported they did not want to marry again due to their forced
marriage experience. While responses included both men and women respond-
ents, the nding is signicant when compared to the near-universal marriage
of women prior to the Khmer Rouge regime as described by previous research.
1. Key ndings
I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
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“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Impact of Khmer Rouge forced marriages
The Khmer Rouge system of forced marriages resulted in social exclusion and
discrimination, especially for women who were abandoned, divorced, in a
polygamous marriage, or simply widowed. These impacts, case studies suggest,
carried intergenerational impacts and have resulted in economic hardship in
many cases.
The majority of all respondents (70.2%) reported ongoing mental health prob-
lems due to the forced marriage, reporting distress and anger at being forced
to marry. Additionally, more than one-third (35.4%) reported adverse economic
consequences due to the forced marriage.
While the majority of respondents reported not hiding their forced marriage
from others, case studies illuminate the internalized disappointment
and shame many victims carry as a result of the assigned match. Parents in
particular reported in case studies difficulty in sharing the truth about the
forced marriage with children born out of the union. Of those who have not
shared their forced marriage experience with others, more than half (52.6%)
reported feelings of shame, while more than one-third (36.8%) reported fear of
stigma and discrimination.
Forced marriages after the fall of the regime contributed to radical shifts in
gender roles and responsibilities. Women in female-headed-households, in
particular, took on added burdens even while negotiating social and economic
hardship, the raising of children, and the care for elders.
The ndings of the research demonstrate that victims are still in need of long-
term support and social services. The commitment of donors and the interna-
tional community remains a vital need for programmatic and research-based
projects in support of non-government organizations and service providers.
Despite the tragedy of forced marriage, many individuals have managed to
successfully reconstitute their lives, often with support from families and
through self-reliance. This nding particularly points to the resiliency of Cambo-
dian women and the need to reassess restrictive gender roles and cultural
stereotypes that continue to hold sway.
Marriage is a functional institution: it changes status, roles, rights and responsi-
bilities as informed by cultural practices and gender identity assignments. Forced
marriages as instituted by the Khmer Rouge regime represent sexualized gender-
based violence with far-reaching impacts. The Khmer Rouge policy is a crime
against humanity for the ECCC to take up for prosecution and through adequate
and effective reparations. Additionally, forced marriage is a development
dilemma for the Cambodian government, as abusive forced marriages continue
intact; as widows and female-headed households resulting from forced marriages
are aging without adequate safety networks; and as children born out of forced
marriages experience intergenerational trauma and other adverse socio-eco-
nomic consequences.
Institute redress and reparations for victims of forced marriage, including
monetary compensation and psychosocial and other support services for survi-
vors of Khmer Rouge forced marriage, in line with the UN Basic Principles and
Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Viola-
tion of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International
Humanitarian Law as well as the Nairobi Declaration on the Women and Girl’s
Right to a Remedy and Reparation.
Document progress in upcoming Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and other human rights treaty
reporting on advancing Cambodian women’s status and gender equality,
particularly in terms of combatting restrictive cultural gender stereotypes, and
in implementing reparations, as called for in the 2013 CEDAW Committee’s
Concluding Observations.
Commit to non-repetition of gender-based crimes in times of conflict and
post-conict by developing a National Acton Plan on Women, Peace and Secu-
rity in line with UN SCR 1325 and its sister resolutions and as called for in the
CEDAW 2013 Concluding Observations.
Integrate forced marriages as an area of focus in development plans, including
the National Action Plan on Women’s Advancement (NAPWA) and the National
Action Plan on Violence against Women (NAPVAW). Stress psychosocial and
economic support for this aging group of victims and their children.
2. RECOMMENDATIONS
a. Royal Government of Cambodia
2. Recommendations
I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1918
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
In both reparation programs and on-going development strategies:
Enhance psychological and social support services and build provider capacity
by integrating gender-based violence and forced marriage under the Khmer
Rouge into the education of doctors, psychologists, social workers and lawyers.
Facilitate hospital and health center employment of psychologists, trauma
counselors and social workers to provide individual, group and family therapy
to victims of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge and their families.
Provide legal and other support services to as many victims as possible, in
particular to women, who desire to end their forced marriages but face obsta-
cles in doing so, such as intimate partner violence, economic dependency,
pressure from family or some other cause.
Use mass media eectively to raise awareness about forced marriage under the
Khmer Rouge regime, the human right of both women and men to consensual
marriage and sex, and the benets of healthy and equitable relationships.
To the Trial Chamber, ensure the full nature, implementation and extent of
forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge will be discussed thoroughly in Case
002-02 of the ECCC as stated in the judgment in Case 002-01.
To the Oce of the Co-Investigating Judges, investigate these crimes to the full
extent for prosecution as warranted in Case 003 and Case 004.
To the Lead Co-Lawyers for Civil Parties and the Victims Support Section, in
partnership with civil society and victim representatives, develop comprehen-
sive and meaningful reparation projects to address the full scope of material,
psycho-social and other adverse impacts of the crime of forced marriage and
enforced conjugal relations.
For all sections of the Court, integrate into their legacy plans a priority focus on
transferring best practices for addressing sexual and gender-based violence
in Cambodia’s national justice system as a means of realizing non-repetition
through the transformation of cultural practices that perpetuate and normalize
gender-inequality and gender-based violence.
To the Victims Support Section, in partnership with civil society actors and
victim representatives, develop non-judicial measures that seek to empower
survivors and acknowledge their experiences of forced marriages and enforced
conjugal relations. Projects should be designed in consultation with survi-
vors themselves and serve as a means of raising awareness of gender-based
violence at local and national levels.
To the Public Aairs branch of the Court, provide information to the public on
how the Court is responding to the gender-based crimes of the Khmer Rouge
generally, and forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations in particular.
Include a clear and concise explanation of the gender-based crimes prosecuted
at the Court, as well details of those crimes that are not being prosecuted and
the reasons, legal and otherwise, why this is the case. Such information sharing
will go far in diminishing public perceptions of impunity for these crimes, espe-
cially among the survivors of gender-based violence under the Khmer Rouge,
and it will set an important example for how present-day gender-based in
Cambodia should be addressed by courts, government and policymakers.
b. Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
2. Recommendations
I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
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“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Encourage the preservation and dissemination of knowledge about forced
marriage and its impacts as fully integrated into the national historical
discourse of the Khmer Rouge atrocity. Include youth in such eorts, especially
in documenting first-hand accounts and in leading community dialogue on
universal human rights and gender equality in times of peace and in conict.
Acknowledge and accommodate the unique challenges of survivors of forced
marriage and conjugal relations—domestic abuse, economic deprivation, and
social exclusion—in providing services and protection for victims of gender-
based violence.
Empower victims by establishing community-based self-help groups for survi-
vors of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge to support survivors dealing
with the psychological and social impacts of this crime. Build the capacities
of survivors of forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations so they can
identify and advocate for their own interests in Cambodia’s transitional justice
process.
Raise awareness in communities of the need to end victim blaming for gender-
based violence, including forced marriage, to reform cultural practices that
restrict freedom of self-determination and gender equality, and to strengthen
recognition of women’s contributions to stable families and societies.
Further research the impact and variances of forced marriage, including by
providing a greater focus on men’s experiences of these crimes and subsequent
disruptions of gender roles and identities, masculinities and male trauma.
II
INTRODUCTION
& BACKGROUND
c. Non-Governmental Organizations and Practitioners
I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
2322
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime Introduction & background
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
with infrequent visitation. According to the sample for this research, in many
cases, the assigned spouses were complete strangers to each other; in most cases,
the unions were without choice or the consent of the intended; in all cases, the
system was coercively enforced through real or threatened punishment—“re-ed-
ucation, imprisonment, sexual violence and torture, or death.
Crimes associated with the Khmer Rouge atrocity are now under deliberation
by a hybrid war crimes tribunal, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of
Cambodia (ECCC). Backed by the United Nations, the ECCC was established in
2006 to bring the most senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime to account.
Indeed, forced marriage, and the rapes inside of forced marriages, will be tried
as a crime against humanity in the next segment of the ECCC’s current case, Case
002-02, set to begin in late 2014. Forced marriage—along with other forms of
sexualized violence outside of forced marriage—also has been recently added
to the request for investigations for the ECCC’s Case 004. If and when convictions
result, the ECCC is also mandated to order symbolic and collective reparations in
relation to these crimes.
This report hopes to contribute depth and dimension to the general understanding
of the crime of forced marriage as instituted as a systematic and widespread policy
of the Khmer Rouge regime. Forced marriage is a form of gender-based violence,
and as such, the analysis of the report adopts a gender-responsive, trauma-informed
perspective.4 As marriage is a gendered institution—that is, it carries different
consequences and meanings for men and women—a gendered analysis is provided
to better understand how gender roles and gendered distribution of power informed
the experience of forced marriage for husbands and wives in distinct ways, as well as
the consequent trauma from these unions. The research is trauma-informed in that it
nuances interpretative analysis of decision-making in the context of oppressive, often
gender-inected, abuse.
The introduction provides a desk review of available research on traditional
marriage practices in Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge period as a point of
comparison to the experience of forced marriage. It then moves into an inven-
tory of what is known from published research about forced marriages under the
regime, the impacts of forced marriages after the fall of the regime until today,
Between April 17, 1975 and January 7, 1979, Cambodia was ruled by the brutal
Khmer Rouge regime,1 resulting in one of the worst mass atrocities of human
history. The ultra-Maoist state instituted a series of policies to achieve its ideo-
logical aim of establishing an agrarian utopia. It resulted in the deaths of an esti-
mated one-quarter of the population through starvation, illness, overwork, forced
transfer, torture and execution. Whole cities were forcibly evacuated, and the
population was divided into “old” or “base” people (the idealized rural population
of largely farmers, sometimes called “full-rights people”) and “new” or April 17”
people (the urban populations associated with the decadence of capitalist cities,
compulsorily displaced to the countryside). Religion and cultural practices were
outlawed; money and private property abolished; and the entire civilian popu-
lation was forced to undergo slave labor on collective worksites dedicated to
farming and infrastructure construction.2
Perhaps one of the most radical transformations of the Khmer Rouge regime
was the abolition of the family unit, dissolved via near-totalized collective living.
Family members were separated by age and gender into work camps, many of
the work units mobile. Cooking and eating was communalized; designated nurse-
maids cared for infants while parents worked; older children lived away from
parents with little access or rights to visit. Angkar (literally “the Organization” and
referring to the highest decision-making body of the Khmer Rouge regime) took
over the role of parent for all, demanding unwavering and exclusive loyalty, and
forcing individuals into marriages and conjugal relations largely without choice or
consent.3
This small-scale study examines the impact of the system of forced marriages
instituted by the Khmer Rouge regime. Between 1975 and 1979, thousands
of men and women were required to undergo mass commitment ceremonies
with spouses assigned by Khmer Rouge agents of the state. Under the surveil-
lance of Khmer Rouge spies, assigned couples were compelled to consummate
the marriage through sexual relations in the days following the wedding cere-
mony. Thereafter, husband and wife were removed into separate work camps,
1
The ocial name of the regime was Democratic Kampuchea (DK),
headed by the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). Khmer Rouge
and the Khmer Rouge regime are the common terms used by the
general population and are used throughout this report for the
purpose of aiding a general readership.
2
For a full account of the period, see generally David Chandler, A
History of Cambodia, 4th edition (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books,
2008); Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide
in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979 (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1996); and Elizabeth Becker, When the War Was
Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution (New York: Public
Aairs Press, 1998).
3
For a detailed description of the break up of the family, see Kalyanee
Mam, “The Endurance of the Cambodian Family Under the Khmer
Rouge Regime: An Oral History,Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda:
New Perspectives, Susan E. Cook, ed. (New Brunswick: Transaction
Publishers, 2006): 119-62. More generally, see Elizabeth Becker,
When the War Was Over.
4
See generally, Bridgette A. Toy-Cronin, “What is Forced Marriage?”
Columbia Journal of Gender and Law 19:2 (2010) and Morten
Bergsmo, Alf Butenschon Skre and Elisabeth J. Wood, editors,
Understanding and Proving international Sex Crimes (Beijing: Torkel
Opsahl Academic EPublisher, 2012).
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
2524
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
and the approach of the ECCC and other bodies—both national and interna-
tional—to address these impacts. The desk review provides context to the nd-
ings of the present mixed-method research, the results of which are presented in
the body of the report under Section 4.
To better understand the forced marriages instituted by the Khmer Rouge regime,
this section provides a point of comparison with traditional Cambodian marriage
customs. Traditional marriages pre-1975 Cambodia were largely arranged with
the consent of the intended, held religious signicance (for the largely Buddhist
population, especially in inuencing karmic status) and had dierential gendered
impacts on men and women.
Ebihara’s two-volume 1968 dissertation provides one of the most comprehensive
anthropological surveys of village life of the pre-Khmer Rouge period, including
weddings and marriages. She describes weddings as elaborate ceremonies of
multiple days that carried deep cultural meaning: Traditional weddings, riep kaa,
were the “most joyous, delightful and (along with funerals), the most extravagant…
of all life-cycle ceremonies,” involving carefully planned rituals and ornate traditional
clothing for the bride and groom. The ceremony includes up to thirteen ritual
acts. Actors in marriage arrangements and weddings included parents, relatives,
friends, elders, monks, fortune tellers, musicians and villagers at some or all parts
of the cultural rituals and celebration. Marriages were largely arranged by parents,
primarily mothers, and “in most cases, the child’s own inclinations and desires
[were] taken into consideration and he/she [was] not forced into doing something
distasteful. In return, parents generally received “obedience, deference, and devo-
tion from their children. Marriage relationships ranged from those of necessity
or convenience to deep mutual “sentiment and regard,” and are most accurately
described as alliances between whole families rather than contracts between indi-
viduals. The cohesive family unit was considered the foundation of a harmonious
society.5
Due to its karmic consequences, buddhist nuptial negotiations and ceremonies
involved not only living family members but also ancestors. Ebihara points out
the “critical importance” of a couple’s horoscope being examined by the achha
[religious layperson] to assess astrological compatibility and to set the most
auspicious wedding date.6 LeVine discusses the importance of the cultural obliga-
tions during the wedding ceremony of making oerings to the “collective ances-
tral realm” as a means of blessing the marriage.7 Researchers also have pointed
out the karmic importance of weddings and marriages, with successful unions
both a sign of merit in past lives and a means for accruing merit for future lives.8
As Cambodia is predominately a Buddhist country, such religious dimensions held
important sway. Much less researched are regional, religious and ethnic variances
(for example, among the Cham, indigenous populations and Vietnamese and
other ethnic groups) of traditional marriage ceremonies.
Yet even with variations, available research demonstrates that arranged marriages
were prevalent. Heuveline and Poch describe such marriages as consen-
sual arranged marriages, whereby authority is ascribed by the intended to a
trusted broker, and matches are made according to a set of criteria to assess
suitability and compatibility.9 In order for the wedding to take place, consent of
the intended, especially daughters, is stressed in the research.10 Child marriage
was practiced and such unions obviate consent, as minors are not generally
considered capable to make fully informed decisions. Yet, generally, tradition-
ally arranged marriages in Cambodia previous to the Khmer Rouge regime are
largely described in the literature as being between consenting adults. Consent
and the right to choose one’s spouse is likewise stressed in Khmer Cham (Muslim)
marriage arrangements.11 Likewise, the Civil Code in operation prior to 1975
assumes a basic marriage institution based on consensual agreement of the
parties, even as it allowed a role for parents.12
5
Ebihara’s dissertation outlines wedding ceremonies and marriage
customs from 1959 to 1960 in Svay village, Kandal Province; the
researcher later revisited that same village in 1990-1991 after the
Khmer Rouge fell. May Ebihara, Svay, A Khmer Village in Cambodia
(Diss. Columbia University, 1968): 112-117; 474-475. See also Henri
Locard, Pol Pot’s Little Red Book: The Sayings of Angkar (Chiang Mai:
Silkworm Books, 2005): 379-385.
6
Ebihara, Svay: A Khmer Village, 473.
7
Peg LeVine, Love and Dread in Cambodia: Weddings, Births, and
Ritual Harm under the Khmer Rouge (Singapore: National University
of Singapore Press, 2010): 25. LeVine argues that Cambodians
experienced “cultural genocide” under the Khmer Rouge due to the
absence of cultural rights to call forward the ancestral realm during
forced marriage ceremonies.
8
See generally Ebihara, Svay: A Khmer Village; LeVine, Love and
Dread in Cambodia; and Katherine Bricknell, “’Plates in a basket will
rattle’: Marital Dissolution and Home ‘Unmaking’ in Contemporary
Cambodia,Geoforum 51 (2014): 262-272.
9
Heuveline and Poch, “Do Marriages Forget their Pasts?” 101. See also
for a more general critique on traditionally arranged versus forced
marriage, as well as the practice of forced marriages with rapists,
Rebecca Surtees, “Rape and Sexual Transgression in Cambodian
Society,Violence against Women in Asian Societies, Lenore
Manderson and Linda Rae Bennett, editors (London: Routledge
Curzon, 2003): 93-113.
10
Ebihara, Svay: A Khmer Village, 315-316; Judith Ledgerwood,
Changing Khmer Conceptions of Gender: Women, Stories and Social
Order (Diss. Cornell University, 1990): 177; Patrick Heuveline and
Bunnak Poch, “Do Marriages Forget Their Past? Marital Stability
in Post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia,Demography 43:1 (2006): 101;
and Toy-Cronin, “What is Forced Marriage? 547. See generally
Ysa Osman, Navigating the Rift: Muslim-Buddhist Intermarriage in
Cambodia (Phnom Penh, np, 2010).
11
See generally Ysa Osman, Navigating the Rift: Muslim-Buddhist
Intermarriage in Cambodia (Phnom Penh, np, 2010).
12
Toy-Cronin, “What is Forced Marriage?” 547.
1. CONCEPT OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGES
IN THE CAMBODIAN CONTEXT
1. Concept of traditional marriages in the Cambodian context
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
2726
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Ebihara describes a typical traditional marriage proposal:
According to ideal custom, a young man makes his own choice as
to whom to marry and, once having decided, asks his parents to begin
negotiations with the girl’s family. When the latter receives a marriage
proposal, the young woman herself is consulted and, again according
to tradition, is free to accept or reject the oer.13
Marriage as an institution confers rights and responsibilities, and therefore status,
on the parties involved. Marriage also is a gendered institution, carrying dierent
signicance and impacts for men and women, especially as marriage serves to
entrench socially prescribed gendered roles. Ledgerwood and others have pointed
to how marriage is the single-most significant source of power and cultural
valuation in Cambodia, for women in particular.14 Most research demonstrates
that unmarried women—including those who were never married, divorced or
widowed—confuse the gender hierarchies in force. Further, while accommodated,
unmarried women were strongly pressured to be married, resulting in near
universal female marriage prior to the Khmer Rouge regime.15
Traditionally defined marriage was marked by gendered power imbalances
between husbands and wives. Although considerable power rested in the hands
of wives, for instance in managing household economies, Cambodia’s highly
hierarchical society placed women in subordinate positions to men.16 In just two
examples, a wife called her husband bong (senior) even if he was younger than
her, and she was expected to oblige his requests for sexual relations as part of her
wifely responsibilities.17
The idealized duties of wives are codied in the Chpab Srey, or Code of Conduct
for Women, a traditional Khmer poem in the Buddhist tradition.18 The ideal
woman is described as a dutiful daughter and wife. She is responsible for above
all else family harmony and, by extension, its honor—with the latter a euphuism
for the chastity and purity of the women in a household.19 Ledgerwood points
out, it is virtually impossible to over emphasize the “extreme importance” that
Khmers place on the “virginity of girls at marriage [and] on proper wedding
arrangements being made by the parents” to signify the honor and status of
the family.20 Natale writes of Chpab Srey, “sexual encounters outside of marriage,
consensual or otherwise, would have devastated a bride’s changes for marriage
and family life.21 Lifelong marriages, in contrast, were a signal of positive “karmic
status” of the entire family.22
In summary, traditional weddings previous to the Khmer Rouge held extraor-
dinary significance for couples, families, and whole communities—including
ancestral spirits. They were largely arranged, most often with the consent of the
intended and, by custom, rarely coerced according to available research. Parents,
elders and communities validated the match at the wedding ceremony with
participation by ancestral spirits. A proper match had implications on the social,
national and cultural identities of the intended, as well as on the karmic potential
for merit making for future lives in a Buddhist context.
13
Ebihara, Svay: A Khmer Village, 467.
14
See Locard, Pol Pot’s Little Red Book, 489: “Marriage signified a
dramatic change in status, especially for the bride.” See also Trudy
Jacobsen, Lost Goddesses: The Denial of Female Power in Cambodian
History (Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2008): 97,
“Marriage gave women status and legal protections.
15
See generally Bricknell, “’Plates in a basket will rattle’”; Ebihara,
Svay: A Khmer Village; Ledgerwood, Changing Khmer Conception of
Gender; and Judy Ledgerwood, “Analysis of the Situation of Women
in Cambodia: Research on Women in Khmer Society” (Phnom Penh:
UNICEF, 1992).
16
Edward B. Fiske, “Using Both Hands: Women and Education in
Cambodia,” (Manila: Asia Development Bank, 1995): 21, citing
Ebihara: “While Cambodia is not a patriarchy traditionally where
virtually all power lay with men, it is highly hierarchical, and
women are subordinate to men.
17
Jan Ayako, “Toward an Eective Strategy for Women’s Empowerment:
Experiences of the Women in Livelihood Improvement Projects,
Takeo Province, Cambodia” (Master’s thesis, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacic
University, 2008): 41.
18
For more discussion how the controlling tenets of Chpab Srey as
it has inuenced women’s status in Cambodia throughout history
until today, see Nakagawa Kasumi, “More Than White Cloth?
Women’s Rights in Cambodia” (Phnom Penh: Cambodia Defenders
Project, 2006). See also Katherine Bricknell, “’We don’t forget the
old rice pot when we get the new one:’ Discourses on the Ideal and
Practices of Women in Contemporary Cambodia,” Signs: Journal of
Women in Culture and Society, 36:2 (2011): 437-462.
19
Ledgerwood, “Analysis of the Situation of Women in Cambodia, 22:
“Women demonstrate their high status (purity and honor) through
proper behavior”; Jacobsen, Lost Goddesses, 119-122
20
Ledgerwood, Changing Khmer Conceptions of Gender, 24. See also
Fiske, “Using Both Hands,” 23.
21
Katrina Natale, “’I Could Feel My Soul Flying Away from My Body’:
A Study on Gender-Based Violence During Democratic Kampuchea
in Battambang and Svay Rieng Provinces” (Phnom Penh: Cambodia
Defenders Project, 2011): 19.
22
Bricknell, “’Plates in a basket will rattle,’” 265-268.
1. Concept of traditional marriages in the Cambodian context
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
2928
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Dy of the Documentation Center of Cambodia provides a comprehensive
summary description of the dramatic difference of Khmer Rouge weddings
compared to traditional weddings. Most men and women were not allowed to
choose their partners and instead, Angkar, which claimed to be everyone’s parent,
assigned spouses. Victims included both men and women. Often couples were
complete strangers, forced to commit to each other at mass wedding ociated
by actors of the Khmer Rouge state. Family members were not allowed to attend
the wedding and were not consulted in marriage arrangements or matches.
Traditional clothes, dancing, singing and religious ceremony were prohibited.
Couples were married in the typical Khmer Rouge costume of black uniform
and tire sandals. As part of the wedding ceremony, which took little more than
ve minutes, assigned husbands and wives publically promised to have a child
within one year. Married couples stayed with each other a few days following the
wedding, often with Khmer Rouge spies, or chhlob, making sure they consum-
mated the marriage with sexual relations. Then, the pair went back to their respec-
tive workgroups, meeting for conjugal visits every seven to ten days—or as long
as months apart. The main purpose of the marriages was not to form privatized
families as in a traditional context, but to “produce children to serve the revolu-
tion.23 In the spirit of that revolution, couples were required to call each other
mith p’dai [comrade husband] and mith bprapouan [comrade wife].24
Generally, research has depicted forced marriage couplings as arbitrary, with the
exception of cursory background checks by Khmer Rouge ocials to match those
with similar backgrounds—including segregating “new” and “old” people. With all
religion abolished under the regime, Khmer Muslims and Khmer Buddhist were
paired.25 Other details and variances mentioned by researchers is the practice
of marrying beautiful young women to disabled Khmer Rouge soldiers—those
women who refused were imprisoned, tortured, and forced to do hard labor far
from their homes. Some of these women committed suicide.26 Other variances in
forced marriage arrangements include Toy-Cronin’s research suggesting wedding
celebrations were more austere for April 17 people,27 while Huy points out that
the weddings of base people were slightly dierent from that of cadres.28 Braaf
nds evidence that Khmer Rouge forced marriage was used against some ethnic
minorities to dissipate the community into the Khmer population.29
There may have been regional variances as to how the Khmer Rouge policy
of forced marriage was implemented.30 This may help to explain Ponchaund’s
recounting of how young men and women in the general community were
“equal and free to choose their mates, and when at least 10 couples have gone
through the formalities of requesting permission from Angkar, the “canton chief
set the date and place for the communal wedding.31 Another notable divergence
in the literature is LeVine’s characterization of these weddings as “conscripted”
rather than forced, arguing that the Khmer Rouge marriage arrangements did not
signicantly depart from traditionally arranged marriages.32 In contrast, gener-
ally researchers agree that the Khmer Rouge marriages were dramatic depar-
tures from traditional marriages in that they were largely without choice of mate,
without meaningful consent, and coerced in an oppressive environment of
constant threat of death or punishment.
Forced marriages included sexual violence in that sexual relations to consum-
mate the marriage was also forced. Researchers have documented this practice.
Em describes the small houses prepared for the couple following the Khmer
Rouge era wedding, and the punishment or disappearance faced by couples who
“refused to accept each other” in the nights following the wedding.33 Ye discusses
how the order to consummate marriages led to rape and sexual violence for many
women by their assigned husbands.34 The topic is also captured in a feature-
length documentary, Red Wedding, produced by Rithy Panh for the Bophana
Center of Phnom Penh in 2012.35
2. MARRIAGE DURING THE KHMER ROUGE
REGIME (1975-1979)
23
Khamboly Dy, A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979)
(Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2007): 32-35.
See also generally, Nakagawa Kasumi, Gender-Based Violence during
the Khmer Rouge Regime: Stories of Survivors from the Democratic
Kampuchea (1975-1979) (Phnom Penh: np, 2008); Sotheary Yim,
“The Past and Present of Forced Marriage Survivors: Experience
toward Healing” (Phnom Penn: Cambodia Defenders Project and
Medica Mondiale, nd). Although not dealing exclusively with
forced marriage, see also Youth for Peace, Neary Padevat, Female
Revolutionaries: Stories of Khmer Rouge from Female Cadres (Phnom
Penh, 2012).
24
Jacobson, Lost Goddesses, 223.
25
See generally Farina So, The Hijab of Cambodia: Memories of
Cham Muslim Women after the Khmer Rouge (Phnom Penh:
Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2011); and Rochelle Braaf,
“Sexual Violence against Ethnic Minorities during the Khmer Rouge
Regime” (Phnom Penh: Cambodia Defenders Project, 2014).
26
See Jacobson, Lost Goddesses, 230, on disabled soldiers gifted to
young women for their eorts in the revolution. See Khamboly, A
History of Democratic Kampuchea, 33, on punishment for refusal of
marriage to soldiers and bride suicides.
27
Toy-Cronin, “What is Forced Marriage?” 548.
28
Ratana C. Huy, “Khmer Rouge Wedding,Searching for the Truth 25
(2002): 26-28.
29
Braaf, “Sexual Violence against Ethnic Minorities,” x
30
See generally Natale, “’I Could Feel My Soul Flying’”; Braaf, “Sexual
Violence against Ethnic Minorities.
31
Francois Ponchaund, Cambodia: Year Zero (New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, 1978): 125-126.
32
LeVine, Love and Dread, 29.
33
Sokhym Em, “Revolutionary Female Medical Staff in Tram Kak
District,” Searching for the Truth 35 (2002): 17-19.
34
Beini Ye, “Forced Marriages as Mirrors of Cambodian Conflict
Transformation,Peace Review 23:4 (2011): 470.
35
Ibid.
2. Marriage during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979)
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
3130
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Researchers have argued that women and men often made strategic survival
choices by acquiescing to the forced marriage, and that resistance—at least in
attempting to refuse—was also common. Certainly suicide of women can be read
in this light. Toy-Cronin points out how many of her respondents complained
bitterly that “their parents were not allowed to fulfill their traditional role in
arranging the wedding and attending the ceremony.36 Forced marriages were
considered by many victims as disobedient acts against parents and ancestors; for
women, who were brought up to preserve virginity at all costs, the sexual encoun-
ters in these marriages were particularly traumatic.
Though Khmer Rouge forced marriage was a national policy and virtually
universally applied according to established research, prevalence has never
been determined. McGrew provides a rough estimate of forced marriage based
on population calculations and her research:
How extensive was forced marriage? By way of comparison, it is
estimated that over 200,000 comfort women were enslaved by the
Japanese military during and around World War II. Although the two
practices were totally dierent, the numbers may have been roughly
equivalent. If, in a Cambodian village of 1,000, there was an average
of two group marriages during the four years that the Khmer Rouge
were in power, with 15 women involved in each ceremony – this would
mean that as many as 210,000 women could have been forced into
marriage out of a population of seven million.37
However many marriages were forced under the Khmer Rouge regime (and it
was surely in the thousands), researchers largely describe a policy with imple-
mentation that was systematic, widespread, and violently coercive. The policy
was a violation of human dignity and omitted central cultural tenets, including
the involvement of families and ancestors. Most victims did not exercise choice
over the mate, were not provided an environment where meaningful consent was
possible, and were coerced when consent was withheld. Assigned couples were
forced to have conjugal relations, which resulted in marital rape and other forms
of sexual violence, as well as psychological trauma.
The Khmer Rouge regime fell to Vietnamese troops on January 7, 1979. The imme-
diate days following the fall were marked by a period of turmoil and ux for the
entire population, when individuals returned to their homes of origin and families
began the work of reconstitution with surviving members. The forced marriage
policy of the Khmer Rouge exacerbated the chaos. Research indicates there was
no national-level policy by the interim government after the fall of the regime to
specically address the status of forced marriages or possible dissolution options
for couples.38 Assigned couples were left, therefore, to their own devices to nego-
tiate the status of individual forced marriages.
Early development literature of the 1990s and 2000s does not address forced
marriage explicitly, pointing instead to the high rates of female-headed house-
holds of the period. Of great concern in the 1990s was the proportion of rural
households headed by women, thought to be as high as 30% to 35% of total
households and reaching 50% in some villages.39 Indeed, when Ebihara returned
to her village of study in the early 1990s, women made up 80.5% of the popula-
tion.40 The surplus of “widows” at the time was attributed to greater mortality rates
of men during the conict and under the regime, as well as male migration for
jobs and eligible men being conscripted into the armed forces.41
What is not addressed in the development literature is the possible link between
the surplus of female-headed households and dissolved forced marriages—
especially as “widow” may be used in Khmer to indicate any woman who has
ever been married but is no longer married due to death, separation or divorce.
Though not addressing forced marriage, Sato’s research finds that “Cambodia
[did] not have any government programs to support widowed or divorced
women with children” in the late 1990s—despite the fact that, at divorce, mothers
customarily took the children into their care, and among her sample, none of
36
Toy-Cronin, “What is Forced Marriage?” 548.
37
Laura McGrew, “Cambodian Women and Year Zero,” On the Record:
Women of Southeast Asia Fight Violence 5 (1999).
38
Toy-Cronin’s research suggests marriages did not follow any
formal registration procedure (see “What is Forced Marriage?”
548). A national-level policy is not mentioned in the development
literature of the period, such as Ledgerwood’s report for UNICEF
(“Analysis of the Situation of Women in Cambodia” [1992]); Peter
Utting’s Between Hope and Insecurity: The Social Consequences of
the Cambodian Peace Process, (New York: United Nations Research
Institute for Social Development [UNRISD], 1994); or UNICEF’s 1995
report, “Toward a Better Future: An Analysis of the Situation of
Children and Women in Cambodia.”
39
Jacqueline Desbarats, “Prolific Survivors: Population Change
in Cambodia 1975-1993,” Paper for the Temple Arizona State
University Program for Southeast Asian Studies (1995): 126.
40
Alexander Hinton, “’Beyond Suering—Genocidal Terror under the
Khmer Rouge: A View from the Work of May Ebihara,Anthropology
and Community in Cambodia: Reections on the Work of May Ebihara,
John Marston, ed. (Caulfield: Monash University Press, 2011):
quoting Ebihara, 59. Surprisingly, Ebihara does not examine forced
marriage during her return visit to Svay Village in the 1990s.
41
Utting, Between Hope and Insecurity, 93-94.
3. MARRIAGE AFTER THE FALL OF THE
KHMER ROUGE REGIME (POST-1979)
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
3. Marriage aer the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime (post-1979)
3332
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
the mothers received child support from their ex-husbands.42 Again, while not
dealing with Khmer Rouge instituted forced marriages, other development
reports in the early 2000s discuss the atrocity’s legacy of a widespread increase
in domestic violence, polygamy and abandonment following the regime’s fall.43
The result of the large number of female-headed households led to radically
re-dened gender roles, with women serving as both providers and caretakers of
households, as well as primary decision-makers in families.44
Bricknell’s research is one of the few to examine the impact of forced marriage
following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Her thesis examines remarriage
and divorce in light of widespread abandonment, polygamy, and abuse in the
context of civil turbulence that lasted until 1998 and as a result of the surplus of
women-to-men ratio at the fall of the regime. Arguing that “[w]omen’s societal
statuses remain[ed] calibrated against harmonious marital and parental relation-
ships, divorce and widowhood incurred social stigma and restricted access to a
central source of power and status. “Widows” were socially valued as incomplete
and culturally valued as inauspicious, since these women by denition fell short
of Chpab Srey in relation to a harmonious and cohesive household. Remarriage
after the regime, then, was viewed as redemptive for multiple purposes. Bricknell
argues that, post-regime, women continued to make strategic choices, including
accepting becoming a second or third wife with the correlative lowered status.
Other women attempted to remedy the damaged “karmic status” of the forced
marriage by remarrying with choice and with the involvement of the ancestors
and parents through traditional ceremonies.45
According to the aggregate research, forced marriage resulted in gendered
impacts and had dramatic social, economic and cultural consequences on
women and their children. These impacts were also psychological. Ye points to
the emotional isolation experienced by survivors of forced marriage, especially
women, and how this trauma may have been transmitted to children.46 Kogure
discusses the negative impacts on child education due to forced marriages.47
Available research does not discuss the emotional, psychological, or behavioral
changes and traumatic consequences on men, male identity or definitions of
masculinity due to the policy of forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations.
It is not clear how many forced marriages remained intact and how many were
dissolved in the days following the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. Anecdotal
evidence points to about half of the marriages being dissolved.48 In contrast,
LeVine’s sample resulted in “over 80% (158 of 192) of [her] respondents consid-
er[ing] their marriages by the Khmer Rouge to have been legitimate arrange-
ments, with that same number remaining together until today.49 This rate is much
higher than indicated by other researchers.
Toy-Cronin’s research discusses the variety of reasons as to why couples may have
remained together, focusing attention on women: a desire to maintain the family
unit especially when children were born out of the marriage, nancial necessity,
a need for protection and mutual care, or the inuence of cultural norms against
separation. Yet, she argues, evidence that couples remained together does not
negate the fact that often both spouses were victims of the Khmer Rouge govern-
ment’s policy of forced marriage: “For Cambodians, the ongoing effect of the
conferral of the status of marriage lies more in the brutality used to coerce the
marriage and the pain and hurt resulting from the deprivation of what was a
pivotal ceremony and celebration in Cambodian culture.50 This nding can be
assumed to apply to both men and women survivors of the Khmer Rouge policy
of forcing marriage and conjugal relations.
42
Nao Sato, “The Composition and Job Structure of Female-Headed
Households: A Case Study of a Rural Village in Siem Reap Province,
Cambodia,” Working Paper Series No. 11, Afrasian Center for Peace
and Development Studies, Singha, Japan, 2006: 21-22. See also
Desbarats, “Prolic Survivors,” discussing how in 1986 over 97% of
the rural population belonged to krom samakki, or collective farms,
with the advantage of providing a safety net for surplus widows and
orphans; by 1989, these policies were abandoned with the advent
of economic liberalization programs, resulting in women taking on
male labor or having to nance the hire of male day labors. Forced
marriage is not covered.
43
Cathy Zimmerman, “Plates in a Basket will Rattle: Domestic Violence
in Cambodia” (Phnom Penh: The Asia Foundation of Cambodia,
1994); Jan Ovesen, Ing-Britt Trankell, and Joakim Ojendal, “When
Every Household is an Island: Social Organization and Power
Structures in Rural Cambodia,” Uppsala Research Reports in Cultural
Anthropology, No. 15 (1996).
44
Desbarats, “Prolic survivors,” 20.
45
Bricknell, “’Plates in a basket will rattle,’” 265-70.
46
Ye, “Forced Marriages as Mirrors, 471.
47
Katsuo Kogure, “Impacts of Forced Marriages in Cambodia under
the Pol Pot regime,” Discussion Paper No. 805, Institute of Social and
Economic Research, Osaka University, March 2011. See also generally
Nigel P. Field, “Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma Stemming
from the Khmer Rouge Regime: An Attachment Perspective,
Cambodia’s Hidden Scars: Trauma Psychology in the Wake of the Khmer
Rouge, Beth Van Schaack, Daryn Reicherter and Youk Chhang, editors
(Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2011): 70-85.
48
McGrew, “Cambodian Women at Year Zero.
49
LeVine, Love and Dread, 26, 87.
50
Toy-Cronin, “What is Forced Marriage?” 555, 586.
3. Marriage aer the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime (post-1979)
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
3534
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
The ECCC was established in 2006 to prosecute the most senior leaders and those
most responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by
the Khmer Rouge regime between April 17, 1975 and January 7, 1979.51 It has
completed one of four proposed cases, with Case 002 severed into smaller trials
to expedite proceedings in light of the advancing age of the accused (now in
their 80s). The indictment for Case 002 includes forced marriage as one of the
ve policies used by the regime to undertake its criminal purposes. The charge
of forced marriage and rape within those marriages, referred in the indictment
as “regulation of marriage, will be included in the forthcoming Case 002-02 as
“other inhumane acts” under crimes against humanity.52 Forced marriage makes
up the second largest pool of civil party plaintis, second only to forced transfer,
for Case 002. Recently, ECCC prosecutors have requested investigation into forced
marriage, as well as rape within and outside of forced marriage, for Case 004.53
This indicates a greater awareness of the dimensions of gender-based violence as
a tool used by the regime to exert control and instill terror as part of the general
atrocity.
Toy-Cronin has outlined how forced marriage in Cambodia is unique in that its
victims were both men and women, even as she situates the crime as manifested
under the Khmer Rouge within the context of international criminal law and prec-
edent-setting cases in the Special Courts of Sierra Leone and the International
Tribunal for Rwanda. N. Anderson likewise outlines from a legal perspective the
collected documented evidence as of 2010 in terms of charging forced marriage
under the ECCC.54 K. Anderson makes an early case (before the ECCC had yet to be
established) as to why gender-based crimes should be stressed in investigations
and prosecutions.55 Natale examines those sexualized and gender-based crimes
not covered by the ECCC according to its indictment for Case 002-02 (such as rape
outside of forced marriage)56 but which are nevertheless important to under-
standing the fuller context of gender-based violence under the regime. Braaf
extends the research to include sexual violence against ethnic minorities during
the Khmer Rouge regime, arguing “there is evidence that the Khmer Rouge prac-
tice of forced marriage was used against some ethnic minorities to dissipate the
community into the Khmer population, a practice that falls within international
denitions of genocide.57
Researchers and practitioners have been vocal critics of the way in which the
ECCC has taken up gender-based crimes more broadly, and forced marriage in
particular. de Langis reviews the narrow and reluctant approach in the prosecu-
tion of gender-based crimes, including forced marriage, within the ECCC, also
outlining international standards that guarantee rights under the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the
Security Council resolutions addressing women, peace and security in conict
and under oppressive regimes.58
Studzinsky, who served as civil party lawyer to the ECCC for an extended time,
critiques “regulation of marriage” as the terminology used in the indictment for
Case 002, rather than “forced marriage, arguing that such terminology discounts
the gravity of these “mass and systematic crimes against the civilian population.
She further argues that the legal classication for forced marriage and rape inside
of forced marriage as “other inhumane acts” under crimes against humanity is
“inadequate” and “does not take every aspect into account, such as the resulting
pregnancies and sexual slavery.59
51
Agreement between the United Nations and the Royal Government
of Cambodia Concerning the Prosecution under Cambodian Law
of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea
(July 2003, ratified October 19, 2004), accessed July 28 2014 at
www.eccc.gov.kh/english/cabinet/agreement/5/. For background
on the formation of the ECCC, see John D.Ciorciari, ed., The Khmer
Rouge Tribunal (Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia,
2006).
52
Closing Order, Case 002/19-9-2007-ECCC-OCIJ, paragraphs 843-44,
1430, 1441.
53
Press Release, “International Co-Prosecutor Requests Investigation
of Alleged Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Case 004” (Apr. 24,
2014), accessed on April 25, 2014 at www.eccc.gov.kh/en/articles/
internationalco-prosecutor-requests-investigation-alleged-sexual-
and-gender-based-violence.
54
Natalae Anderson, “Memorandum RE: Charging Forced Marriage
as a Crime Against Humanity,” Documentation Center of Cambodia,
September 22, 2010, accessed on July 27, 2014 at www.d.dccam.
org/Abouts/Intern/Natalae_Forced_marriage.pdf.
55
Katrina Anderson, “Turning Reconciliation on Its Head: Responding
to Sexual Violence under the Khmer Rouge, Seattle Journal for Social
Justice 3:2 (2005): 785-832.
56
Natale, “’I Could Feel My Soul Flying.’
4. “FORCED MARRIAGE” AS A CHARGE
BEFORE THE ECCC
57
Braaf, “Sexual Violence against Ethnic Minorities,” x.
58
Theresa de Langis, “A Missed Opportunity, A Last Hope?
Prosecuting Sexual Crimes under the Khmer Rouge Regime,
Cambodia Law and Policy Journal 2 (2014): 39-43. See also by
the same author, “Results of the ECCC Baseline Study on Gender
Sensitivity in Transitional Justice Processes in Cambodia” (Phnom
Penh: Cambodia Defenders Project, 2011), accessed July 28, 2014
at gbvkr.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Results-of-the-ECCC-
Baseline-on-Gender-Sensitivity-in-Transitional-Justice-Processes-
in-Cambodia-20121.pdf
59
Silke Studzinsky, “One Eye Blind? Is the ECCC a Model of How Sexual
Violence Crimes Should Be Investigated and Treated?” Gerda Werner
Institute: Feminism and Democracy (2012), accessed July 28, 2014
at www.gwi-boell.de/en/2012/04/16/blind-one-eye-icc-model-
how-sexual-crimes-should-be-investigated-and-treated
4. “Forced Marriage” as a charge before the ECCC
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
3736
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
The issue is not simply a legal consideration but also has implications for human
rights, peace and security, and development policy implementation in Cambodia.
In its annual report since 2011, the Oce of the Special Representative of the
Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conict has urged the ECCC to use its full
resources to address sexual crimes, including investigating and expanding the
scope of what can be prosecuted, as well as providing adequate recognition of
and reparations for victims.60 Additionally, in its Concluding Observations on the
combined 4th and 5th periodic reports of Cambodia in 2013, the Committee on
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW) called for the development by the Royal Government of Cambodia of
a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, in line with UN SCR 1325
and its sister resolutions. The Committee also recommended eective redress for
victims. Redress includes adequate reparations and integration of these issues
into national policies and strategies aimed at addressing violence against women
and gender inequality today.61 In light of the more than 30 years since the fall of
the regime—and the lingering impacts of forced marriage on the status and well-
being of many women and men—reparations for forced marriage crimes can be
included under the mandate of the ECCC for collective and symbolic” reparations.
Reparations can also take the form of an extrajudicial initiative to address the
needs of a quickly aging population, long neglected from the sustainable peace,
justice and development considerations in Cambodia.
60
Report of the Secretary-General on Conict-Related Sexual Violence,
U.N. Doc. S/2014/181 (Mar. 13, 2014): “Since my previous report
on sexual violence in conict, no governmental system has been
put in place to respond to my recommendation that the eective
prosecution of perpetrators be pursued.
61
Concluding Observations on the Combined Fourth and Fifth Periodic
Reports of Cambodia, CEDAW Comm., 56th Session, U.N. Doc.
CEDAW/C/KHM/CO/4-5 at 3-4 (2013).
III
METHODOLOGY
II INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
3938
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
The primary goal of the research is to better understand the experience and
impact of forced marriages under the Khmer Rouge regime until today from a
gender-responsive, trauma-informed perspective.
The research involved 106 respondents who are all Civil Party plaintis to Case
002 of the ECCC.
The research used a mixed-method approach for data collection and analysis,
combining a quantitative standardized survey of 93 questions (with minimal
opportunity for qualitative responses) with eight case study qualitative inter-
views. While quantitative data collection aimed to determine prevalence,
patterns, and types of a larger pool of respondents (“how many” and “to what
extent”), qualitative data collection aimed to describe in-depth particular
instances and aspects within the socio-historic context over time (“how” and
“why” and “what happened next”).62
The rationale for a mixed-methods research approach included the desire to form
a comprehensive picture of consequences of the Khmer Rouge forced marriage
policy within the particular Cambodian context. This includes the inuence of
gender roles and cultural practices on personal motivations, decision-making
and meaning-making. Additionally, the mixed method approach allowed for the
emergence of unanticipated responses, thereby providing a wider perspective
than what might be captured in a single method, standardized survey approach
and provoking deeper understanding of individual human agency within a
seemingly totalized system. Finally, a mixed-method research design brought to
the fore the multi-dimensionality of impacts in the form of legal, psychological,
cultural, and social implications, contributing to a “whole picture scenario” of what
up to now has been an under-researched and little understood eld of analysis.
The research utilized purposive sampling from among the group of Case 002
civil parties who directly experienced forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge.
The majority of the sample constitutes clients of the Transcultural Psychosocial
Organization (TPO) and the Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP) as part of a joint
project.63 From a total of 64 TPO clients and direct victims of forced marriage,
59 were selected to participate in the survey. From a total of 32 CDP clients and
direct victims of forced marriage, 30 were selected to join the study. In addition,
17 civil parties, who are direct victims of forced marriage but were not bene-
ciaries of the project, were asked to participate. All participants were selected
based on the criteria described below.
The total sample of 106 civil parties was asked to complete the standardized
questionnaire, which was administered by experienced interviewers and staff
of the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS). Among these 106 respondents, nine
respondents were selected for eight qualitative case-study interviews, with one
interview including a husband and wife. To mitigate “outsider status” during inter-
views, all interviews were conducted in Khmer by Khmer researchers, with inter-
national researchers providing technical support in the design of the research
tools and the analysis of research results. Case study interviews and survey results
were translated into English from Khmer for analysis. An international consultant,
also part of the research team, was commissioned to write the report, based on
research ndings.
Case study interviews are presented in synthesized form to eliminate redun-
dancies and to highlight thematic parallels across accounts. Where relevant and
possible, respondents’ own words are used in extended excerpts in the report
to fully honor the contribution of those who shared their stories in the spirit of
greater understanding of the forced marriage experience.
To include a representational sample, criteria for selection of the 106 participants
were as follows:
Persons who were forced by the Khmer Rouge to marry
Persons already married pre-Khmer Rouge but forced to marry again under
Khmer Rouge
Forced married couples who stayed together or split up following liberation
With children, without children
If split up, remarried or did not remarry
Husband separated, disappeared, murdered, died of other causes
Persons who refused forced marriage
With reprisal (punishment, imprisonment, rape, etc.)
Without reprisal
1. OBJECTIVE OF THE RESEARCH
2. RESEARCH DESIGN
III METHODOLOGY III METHODOLOGY
2. Research design
62
63
For more information about the project see: gbvkr.org
4140
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Criteria for selection of the eight qualitative case study interviews were as follows:
Males, females, couples
Typical” or “average” cases
Critical instance, unusual or unique cases
Extreme case: example of case with extreme characteristics or that are not
typical to the “average case”
“Existing group”: dierent experiences of various groups (based on ethnicity,
religion, geographic location, sex, age, current/previous marital status, etc.)
The research utilized best ethical practices, with a focus on trauma-informed
approaches in human-subject research with survivors of sexual and gender-
based violence. The case study interviewer was trained on WHO guidelines for
researching sexual and gender-based violence as a means of mitigating re-trau-
matization while probing a highly sensitive topic. Interviewers for the quantitative
survey were trained and supervised by TPO sta and one international psycholo-
gist. Data were collected between February and April 2014. 100 respondents
for the survey and seven individuals for case studies were interviewed at the
TPO facilities in Phnom Penh and, therefore, were able to avail themselves of
psychosocial support through a trusted service provider. Additionally, six survey
interviews and two case study interviews were conducted in Kampot during
a regularly scheduled visit by TPO in its implementation of programs directed
to Khmer Rouge survivors. All respondents were given TPO’s telephone hotline
number in case they needed follow-up psychological support. Informed consent
was provided in all cases, with condentiality protected. To that end, only initials
are used to identify respondents in case studies, and the names of any accused
individual in the interview has been removed. Data entry and analysis were done
using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 16.0.
As all respondents are Civil Party plaintiffs to the ECCC, findings are biased to
those who have already disclosed their experience of forced marriage during
the process of application as Civil Parties at the ECCC, many of whom consider
forced marriage as a crime. The research does not attempt to determine preva-
lence of forced marriage as it was undertaken with only a small sample, nor can
the case study ndings be generalized to the total population. The research did
not attempt to qualify in depth variations in forced marriage practices under the
regime in terms of regional, religious, ethnic identity, or “new” people versus old”
people dierences.
The research sample is imbalanced by the ratio of female respondents to male
respondents, with an over-representation of the former. This was due to the
client base of the TPO and CDP, which have focused eorts on self-help and other
support to female victims of gender-based violence under the Khmer Rouge
regime. More research is needed with a focus on men’s responses to forced
marriage, including forced rapes and impacts on male gender identity and social
roles.
The majority of study participants were clients of TPO and CDP in a joint project
that addresses GBV under the Khmer Rouge. Participants therefore may have
more understanding about and knowledge of forced marriage than other direct
victims of forced marriage. Also, participants may have felt more comfortable
in responding to questions as they have established relationships of trust with
TPO sta. As a result, ndings of the study cannot be generalized to other direct
victims of forced marriage.
Translation by denition presents limitations in understanding and correspond-
ence in conceptual meaning. Translations were veried and concepts discussed
as needed, as well as compared against published previous research. The core
research and analysis team was multi-cultural, comprised of one American,
one German, and two Khmer, all women. CAS interviewers included both men
and women for survey interviews, while a trained female sta member at TPO
conducted case studies. These gender and other identity dierences inevitably
inform analysis and interpretation of results.
3. Limitations
3. LIMITATIONS
III METHODOLOGY III METHODOLOGY
4342
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
IV
RESULTS
4544
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
IV RESULTS
All 106 respondents reported they were asked to marry during the Khmer Rouge
regime, with 103 (97.2%) reporting that eventually they married in the end. All are
Civil Parties in Case 002 of the ECCC.
The mean age of respondents is 58 years old, the youngest being 47-years old
and the oldest 71-years-old. The vast majority identify as ethnic Khmer (93.4%),
with the remainder identifying as Cham (or Islam) Khmer. Of the 106 respond-
ents, 88 are female and 18 are male. Most are married (62.3%), but close to a third
(31.1%) report widowhood.
Sample size: 106
Female: 83%
Mean age: 58
Respondents reported living in 14 dierent provinces before the Khmer Rouge
take-over.
AGE GROUP
45-55 56-65 >65
28% 64% 8%
ETHNICITY
Khmer Cham
93.4% 6.6%
MARITAL STATUS
Married Divorced Separated Widowed
62.3% 2.8% 3.8% 31.1%
1. SURVEY (QUANTITATIVE) FINDINGS
a. Respondents’ demographic characteristics b. Marriage before the Khmer Rouge Regime
Table 1. RESPONDENTS’ DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS
Table 2. PROVINCES OF RESPONDENTS BEFORE
KHMER ROUGE TAKE-OVER
17
13 12
11
9
7
6
5
4
4
3
32
4
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%%
%
Kampot
Pursat
Kampong
Cham
Kampong
Thom
Prey Veng
Battambang
Siem Reap
Kandal
Kampong
Chhnang
Svay
Rieng
Kampong
Saom
Kampong
Speu Phnom
Penh
Takeo
IV RESULTS
1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
4746
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
More than half of respondents worked as farmers (58.7%), while others primarily
reported “other occupations” prior to April 1975 such as working on salt elds, over-
seeing rice production, drying sh, weaving, doing housework or being a monk.
The vast majority of respondents (91.3%) did not have children before the Khmer
Rouge regime, with 82 respondents (78.8%) reporting they were single at the
time of the take-over. Of the 6 respondents who reported having children before
the regime, most (66.7%) reported having two children.
*Marital status is based on 104 participants
Of the 12 respondents who were married before the Khmer Rouge take-over,
10 respondents (83.3%) reported their marriages were arranged, with only 2
reporting their marriages were not arranged. Of those in arranged marriages,
64.7% reported the marriage was arranged by the father and mother, 27.3% by
other relatives.
Of the 10 respondents, whose marriages were arranged, more than half (63.6%)
of respondents reported that the arranged marriage was their choice, while those
who reported the arranged marriage was not their choice most frequently point
to family pressure as the reason for the marriage.
Most respondents (64.0%) reported being between the ages of 18- to
49-years-old at the time of marriage, while 40.0% reported being between the
ages of 13- to 17-years-old. Spouses are reported to have been between the ages
of 18- to 49-years-old by 77.8% of respondents and between the ages of 13- to
17-years-old by 22.2% of respondents.
Of those in arranged marriages before the Khmer Rouge period, 63.6% reported
knowing the spouse before the marriage. In an open-ended question on the
survey, respondents reported their marriages before the Khmer Rouge regime as
characterized by “happiness” and “harmony,” with spouses having a good relation-
ship and “living together peacefully.
Figure 1. RESPONDENTS’ OCCUPATION BEFORE
KHMER ROUGE REGIME
Table 3. RESPONDENTS’ MARITAL STATUS
BEFORE KHMER ROUGE REGIME
Table 4. RESPONDENTS’ CHOICE TO MARRY IN ARRANGED
MARRIAGES BEFORE KHMER ROUGE REGIME
Table 5. RESPONDENTS’ AND SPOUSES’ AGE AT TIME OF
MARRIAGE BEFORE KHMER ROUGE REGIME
%58.7
%3%2
%36.3
Farmer Civil servant Own business Other
MARITAL STATUS*
Single Married Proposed to be
married
Divorced/
separated
80.8% 9.6% 7.7% 1.9%
CHOICE TO MARRY
Respondents’ choice Not respondents’ choice
63.6% 36.4%
AGE AT TIME OF MARRIAGE
Respondents Spouse
13-17 18-49 13-17 18-49
45.5% 54.5% 18.2% 81.8%
1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
4948
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
None of the 12 respondents who were married before the take-over of the Khmer
Rouge reported having experienced violence by their spouses.64
Respondents reported living in 15 provinces when the Khmer Rouge took over
power.
More than half of respondents (56.3%) lived as part of mobile work units during
the period. Only 11 respondents reported living with family or relatives during the
regime, and a mere 6 reported living with their spouses.
The vast majority of respondents (81.7%) reported working as farmers under
the regime. More than half (55.8%) reported being categorized as “new” people
during the period. All Cham respondents reported being in this category.
c. Marriage during the Khmer Rouge Regime
Table 6. PROVINCES AND DISTRICTS WHERE RESPONDENTS
WERE LIVING AT TIME OF KHMER ROUGE TAKE-OVER
Figure 2. WITH WHOM DID YOU LIVE DURING
KHMER ROUGE REGIME?
%56.3
%20.8
%11.5
%6.3
%3.8%1.9%1.9
%5.2
Mobile unit
Farmer Nurse Village leader Soldier Other
Cooperative Family/
relative
Spouse/
partner
Other
Figure 3. WORK PERFORMED BY RESPONDENTS
DURING KHMER ROUGE REGIME
%81.7
%10.6
14
13
%
%
Kampot
Pursat
11
12
%
%
Kampong
Cham
Prey Veng
9%
Kampong
Thom
7%
Battambang
6%
Siem Reap
4%
Kampong
Chhnang
4%
Svay Rieng
4%
2
3
3
%
%
%
Koh Kong
Kampong
Saom
Kampong
Speu 3%
Phnom
Penh
%
Kandal
5
Takeo
64
It is likely domestic abuse occurred prior to the Khmer Rouge
regime, but it is not reported in our sample.
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
5150
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
For those married before the Khmer Rouge regime, more than half (57.1%)
reported the spouse was killed during the period, with another 14.3% reporting
the spouse disappeared. Less than one-quarter (21.4%) of spouses in marriages
from before the Khmer Rouge regime are reported to have survived the period.
All 106 respondents reported they were asked to marry during the Khmer Rouge
regime, and 103 (97.2%) married in the end.
Respondents reported being asked multiple times to marry, with 22.1% reporting
being asked more than three times to marry.
Refusal, to a point, appears common. With 9 missing responses, 73 respondents
(70.2%) reported refusing a request to marry. Of those who refused, 21 respond-
ents (29.4%) stated refusing once, 23 respondents (31.9%) reported refusing
twice, and almost a quarter (23.6%) reported refusing more than three times.
A majority of respondents reported threats or actual punishment for refusing to
marry. 48 respondents (66.7%) reported being threatened verbally for the refusal,
5 reported imprisonment and 2 reported torture.
Table 7. FATE OF SPOUSE BETWEEN 1975 AND 1979
FATE OF SPOUSE
Killed Survived the
regime Disappeared Other
57.1% 21.4% 14.3% 7.1%
Figure 4. NUMBER OF TIMES RESPONDENTS WERE ASKED
TO MARRY UNDER KHMER ROUGE REGIME
Figure 5. NUMBER OF TIMES RESPONDENTS REFUSED
TO MARRY UNDER THE KHMER ROUGE
Figure 6. CONSEQUENCES OF REFUSAL TO MARRY
DURING KHMER ROUGE REGIME
%29.4
%29.4
%32.4
%32.4
%16.2
%16.2
%22.1
%22.1
Once
Once
Twice
Twice
Three times
Three times
More than
three times
More than
three times
%17.6
%69.1
%7.4%2.9%2.9
Nothing Imprisoned Tortured OtherVerbally
Threatened
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
5352
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
Of those who eventually married, 85 respondents (84.2%) reported being
between the ages of 18- to 49-years-old at the time of the wedding. 15 (14.9%)
reported being between the ages of 13- to 17-years-old. 1 respondent reported
being married at 12-years-old or younger.
Among 7 Cham respondents, 1 reported being asked to marry a Khmer person.
44 respondents (43.6 %) reported being “called for a meeting” at their worksite
and thereby learning they were to be married. A signicant number (34 respond-
ents) were informed privately. 15 of the respondents did not know before the
wedding procedure that they were to be married.
With 5 missing cases, 47 respondents (46.5%) reported knowing the person or
about the person before the wedding, with “new” people slightly less likely to
know the person they were assigned to marry (29.7% of “new” people did not
know their assigned spouses as compared to 23.8% of “old” people).
98 of respondents, or 97.0%, reported it was not their choice to be married, with
“old” people slightly more likely to report it was their choice (2.1% as compared to
0.0% for “new” people).
72 of respondents (75.0%) reported being forced to marry despite it not being
their choice due to verbal threats; another 18 (18.8%) reported feeling pressured
by fear of punishment; another 5 (6.2%) reported being forced to marry through
physical violence.
With 5 missing responses, interviewees stated that wedding procedures were
mostly conducted by Khmer Rouge cadres (70.3%).
*Actors is based on 101 participants
Figure 7. HOW DID YOU LEARN YOU WERE TO BE MARRIED?
Figure 8. HOW WERE YOU FORCED TO MARRY?
%44.7
%35.1
%16 %2.1
%
6.2
%2.1
Called for
a meeting
Verbal threat Fear of punishment Physical violence
Informed
privately
Did not know
before
Announced
in public
Other
Table 8. RESPONDENTS’ CHOICE TO MARRY IN MARRIAGES
ARRANGED BY KHMER ROUGE
Table 9. WHO CONDUCTED THE WEDDING?
CHOICE TO MARRY
Respondents’ choice Not respondents’ choice
3% 97%
%75
%18.8
ACTORS CONDUCTING THE WEDDING*
KR cadre Militia
(chhlob) Civilian Mobile unit
leader KR soldier
70.3% 12.7% 8.5% 7.5% 1%
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
5554
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
89 respondents (88.1%) reported feeling forced to have sex after the wedding,
with 5 missing responses. 42 reported (47.2%) being forced through verbal
threats, and another 30 respondents (33.7%) reported feeling forced by being
spied upon by Khmer Rouge actors. 14 respondents (15.7%) report fearing
punishment, and 3 (3.4%) reported being forced through physical force.
Respondents overwhelmingly (42.8%) reported being fearful for their survival
in relation to the Khmer Rouge wedding. 15.3% stated they did not love their
spouse or have sexual interest in the relationship. 33.7% reported feeling frus-
trated and disappointed about the wedding, and 8.2% of respondents specif-
ically mentioned the absence of parents as a major source of disappointment
concerning the forced marriage.
The greatest number of respondents (35, or 39.3%) reported meeting their
spouses after the wedding during the Khmer Rouge time only once a month, with
17 (19.1%) reporting every week, and 15 (16.9%) reporting meeting every day. 13
respondents met a spouse only once a year, and 9 reported not ever meeting the
spouse again after the wedding procedure.
In an open-ended question, respondents had positive and negative responses to
the relationship with a forced-marriage spouse during the Khmer Rouge regime.
Some reported “feeling love” and “respect,” and husbands were mentioned for
providing support to wives during pregnancy. Compassion and mutual pity and
care were also cited, as well as equality in the marriage, as positive aspects of the
relationship: “We both compromise and get along well with each other.
Reports of negative feelings were more numerous, including lack of love, commu-
nication, sexual attraction, or even minimal compatibility: “I don’t like him.
Respondents reported estranged and emotionally distant relationships with their
spouses of forced marriage: “I often rejected to have sex with my forced marriage
spouse. Responses explicitly referred to spousal abuse: “I am so frightened to live
with my spouse from forced marriage”; “my husband commits violence toward
me, emotional and physical abuse, and he accuses me not being honest”; “I have
no good feelings toward my husband because he always wants sex from me. One
respondent reported feeling trapped in the relationship: “I don’t love my spouse,
and I want to separate from him.
Of women who reported pregnancies as a result of the forced marriage, 69
respondents (92%) report never attempting an abortion. Reports of attempted
abortion among the remaining 6 respondents include self-harm such as carrying
heavy things, running and attempting to fall, with a few reporting taking tradi-
tional medicine as a means of inducing miscarriage.
%48.8
%
32.6
%16.3%2.3
Verbal threat
Fearful for
their survival
Surveillance/
spying
Frustrated/
disappointed
Fear of
punishment
Did not have
feelings of love/
lack of sexual
interest
Physical force
Disappointed
as not parents
were present
Figure 9. WHY DID YOU FEEL FORCED TO HAVE SEX
AFTER THE WEDDING?
Figure 10. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE WEDDING
AT THAT TIME?
%42.8
%33.7
%15.3%8.2
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
5756
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
Nearly one-quarter of respondents (24.5%) reported spousal abuse during the
regime as part of the forced marriage. Of the 29 who reported experiencing
spousal abuse in the forced marriage, 10 respondents (35.7%) reported physical
violence, with another 6 (21.4%) reporting rape and sexual violence. Of those
who experienced abuse, one-quarter (7 respondents, or 25%) experienced it
every day, while 6 (21.4%) experienced it less than once per year, most likely due
to forced-married pairs being separated for work (see below). Equal numbers of
respondents (17.9%) reported spousal violence occurring one to three times per
week or per month, or once per year.
In an open-ended question, respondents described the abuse in their forced
marriages during the regime. Some described sexual abuse and rape that began
on the very night of the wedding: “After the wedding, my husband forced me
to take o my clothes and forced me to have sex with him; he said if I rejected,
he would kill me. One woman recounted being raped by her husband at
15-years-old. Another said, “He always forced me to have sex with him, and if
did not want to he would slap me and after intercourse I was weak and pale.
Other respondents described physical beating and verbal abuse that occurred
throughout the duration of the marriage.
The majority of respondents (77, or 76.2%) reported having children as a result of
the forced marriages, with 35 respondents (44.9%) reporting more than four chil-
dren, and 28 (35.9%) reporting having one child.
*Number of children is based on 106 participants.
The majority of spouses (82.0%) have told others about their forced marriage
during the Khmer Rouge regime. Of those who kept their marriage a secret,
more than half (52.6%) reported shame due to the marriage, with another 36.8%,
reporting fear of stigma and discrimination.
Figure 11. TYPES OF SPOUSAL ABUSE IN FORCED MARRIAGE
DURING KHMER ROUGE REGIME
%35.7
%21.4
%14.3
%25
%3.6
Physical
violence
Verbal abuse Rape/ sexual
violence
Verbal
threats
Other
Table 10. NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN FORCED MARRIAGES
Table 11. RESPONDENTS’ REASONS FOR NOT TELLING SOMEONE
ABOUT THE FORCED MARRIAGE
ACTORS CONDUCTING THE WEDDING*
1 2 3 4 >4
35.9% 7.7% 3.8% 7.7% 44.9%
REASONS FOR NOT DISCLOSING FORCED MARRIAGE
Feelings of shame Fear of stigma and
discrimination Other
52.6% 36.8% 10%
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
The majority of respondents (68.1%) reported their spouses survived the regime,
with 7 (6.9%) responding they did not know if their spouse survived or not. Of
the 64 respondents who reported spouses surviving the regime, more than half
(53.1%) remained in the marriage after the regime, and more than one-quarter
(26.6%) report staying with the spouse at least for a while. 12 respondents
(20.3%) reported separation due to the death of the spouse or other reasons.
*Status of forced marriage after the regime is based on 102 participants
For those respondents who separated from their spouses, half (50.0%) did so
before or immediately upon the fall of the regime in 1979, with 11 respondents
(34.4%) reporting separation between 1980 and 1993. 5 respondents (15.6%)
reported separations after 1993.
An equal number (29.4%) of respondents reported separating from their
forced-married spouse because they did not get along, or due to death. Other
reasons given for separation include pressure from family or relatives (17.6%);
abandonment or disappearance of spouse (8.8%); nding a new partner (8.8%)
and moving back to a home province (5.9%).
Of those who separated from their forced-married spouse, 70% married again,
with a third (30.0%) reporting never marrying again. Nearly half of respondents
(45.2%) reported love as the most important motivating factor in remarrying. The
rest reported marrying again due to family pressure (21.4%), increased economic
or social status (14.3%), or some other reason. One response reported marrying at
the wish of children.
Figure 12. RESPONDENTS’ REASONS FOR SEPARATING
FROM FORCED-MARRIED SPOUSE
Figure 13. RESPONDENTS’ REASONS FOR RE-MARRYING
AFTER KHMER ROUGE REGIME
%29.4%29.4
%17.6
%8.8%8.8
%
5.9
%2.4
Did not get
along well
Died Pressure
from family/
relatives
New partner Abandonned/
disappeared
Moved back
to home
province
%45.2
%21.4
%14.3%16.7
Love Family
pressure
Increased
status/
economic
Wish of
children
Other
d. Marriage after the Khmer Rouge Regime
(i.e. post January 1979)
Table 12. STATUS OF THE FORCED MARRIAGE AFTER
KHMER ROUGE REGIME
STATUS OF FORCED MARRIAGE AFTER KHMER ROUGE REGIME*
Stayed together Stayed together
for a while Separated/spouse died
53.1% 26.6% 20.3%
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
For those who did not marry again, most (72.2%) reported a preference for not
being married because of the relationship problems experienced in the forced
marriage. Another 5.6% reported not being able to nd a spouse because they
has already been married, and 11.1% reported not being able to find a new
spouse due to being “too old.” 5.6% respondent reported not marrying to defer to
the wishes of children.
More than half (52.5%) of respondents took custody of their children after the
separation or death of the forced-married spouse, with 45.8% reporting that
another person, not the spouse, took custody. Respondents described good rela-
tionships with the children from their forced marriage, characterized by “love” and
“compassion.” A single respondent reported a distant relationship with children
from a forced marriage, and 2 reported no contact with the children from forced
marriages; but overall, a full 92.1% of respondents described warm and close rela-
tions with children born from forced marriages.
Among those who separated, half of respondents (50.8%) reported warm and
close relationships between children from the forced marriage and the former
spouse, with a third (34.0%) reporting distant relationships and 15.3% reporting
neutral relationships. The majority of respondents (75.0%) do not keep in touch
with a former spouse from a forced marriage.
Respondents report both positive and negative impacts as a result of the death
or separation from a forced-married spouse. In an open-ended survey question,
respondents reported feeling improved emotional and psychological health
after the marriage dissolved because “the marriage was forced, so my spouse did
not love me. Others reported being happy to have the freedom to select their
own marriage partner. Those who experienced abuse in their forced marriages
reported relief that “without the spouse from the forced marriage, there is no one
to insult me, and “no one is torturing me anymore or forcing me to have sex.
Even when separation led to positive outcomes, it reportedly carried with it nega-
tive impacts. The most severe relate to economic impacts and poverty, with no
capacity or assistance to perform farming duties; the diculties of managing a
household while playing the role of both mother and father; and a lack of general
support—both social and financial. Some responses pointed to the gendered
impacts of separation after forced marriage on women in particular, whose
social role is focused on maintaining family harmony for husband and children:
“Being a widow, I hear bad words and stigma from my neighbors”; “I have so
much suering and grief to lose my husband and child during the regime”; “I am
suering a lot because I have no one to support me”; “I am disappointed to be
alone”; “My life is emptiness.
Of the 52 respondents who reported staying in a forced marriage, more than
half (55.8%) reported doing so because of love and aection. The next strongest
motivation to stay together (36.5%) was the fact of having children together from
the forced marriage. The pressure of family as well as traditional culture (such as
the perception that women who separate are not good or do not respect their
husbands) were also mentioned as reasons couples remained intact.
Table 13. RESPONDENTS’ MOTIVATION FOR STAYING
IN FORCED MARRIAGE
RESPONDENTS’ MOTIVATION FOR STAYING IN FORCED MARRIAGE
Close relationship/
aection/love
Having children
with spouse from
forced marriage
Pressure of
parents/family Tradition/culture
55.8% 36.5% 3.8% 3.8%
Figure 14. RESPONDENTS’ REASONS FOR NOT RE-MARRYING
AFTER KHMER ROUGE REGIME
%5.5%5.6%5.6
Preference
for not being
married
“Too old” Not able to
nd spouse
Wish of
children
Other
%72.2
%
11.1
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 1. Survey (quantitative) ndings
In an opened-ended survey question, respondents who stayed in the forced
marriage and stated to have a positive relationship described a situation of
mutual support and respect (“My spouse can read and understand my mind”; “We
compromise with each other to have a peaceful family”). Others described rela-
tionships that are directly related to the shared experiences of the genocide (“I did
not so much fall in love, but I have much pity for my spouse”; “I have so much love
for my spouse because she is physically impaired and lost all of her relatives”).
Some respondents reported negative relationships in intact forced marriages:
physical, verbal and economic abuse; desertion of the spouse (specified as
husband) for long periods of time, leaving the remaining spouse to care for and
support children alone; drinking and indelity (“He often insults my family when
he is drunk”; “My spouse does not treat me so well because he took on other part-
ners”; “My husband leaves me alone with the children”). Perhaps these negative
relationships are best summed up in the words of one respondent: “We feel so
distant from each other.
When respondents were asked to rate their relationship with the spouse from
the forced marriage, 65.3% reported a “close and warm relationship.” A full third
respondents (34.8%) described negative relationships, while 18.4% reported having
no interaction with the spouse or a relationship of indierence, and equal numbers
(8.2%) reported interaction only when necessary or a conictive relationship.
Of respondents in intact forced marriages, more than half (52.9%) reported
spousal abuse after the Khmer Rouge regime until today, most commonly
reported as physical violence (44.4%); verbal abuse (44.4%); and verbal threats
(7.4%). One respondent reported rape and sexual violence as part of the intact
forced marriage.
Of those who experience spousal abuse, almost half (48.1%) reported being
abused one to three times per month, 11.1% reported abuse every day, and
22.2% at least once a year. Almost a quarter of respondents (22.2%) reported the
latest abuse in the last month. 18 respondents (66.7%) reported the last experi-
ence of abuse was more than a year ago, while 22.2% reported the latest abuse
had occurred within the past month, 7.4% reported abuse in the last six months,
and 3.7% reported abuse in the last year.
In an open-ended survey question about the nature of the spousal abuse,
one respondent described: “Almost every day I have sexual violence from my
husband. Other forms of reported physical abuse included being beaten,
stabbed, and slapped, with one respondent reporting having suffered a head
injury as a result of spousal abuse in an intact forced marriage. Verbal and
emotional abuse included threats with knives, insults, scolding, and accusations
of having an aair. One response of economic abuse stated, “My husband does
not give money to me”—significant in that wives are usually in charge of the
management of the household nances in Cambodia.
In describing the nature of their relationship with their children in intact forced
marriages, the overwhelming majority (95.2%) reported warm and close relations.
In rating the relationship between the children and the spouse from forced
marriage, 76.7% reported warm and close relations, with another 18.6% reporting
neutral relations, and 4.7% reporting distant relations. In an open-ended survey
question, respondents described the relationship between children and spouse
as loving, respectful, and supportive (“They love each other so much and when
their father was sick, they took care of him”; “They strongly support each other”;
“They often have fun with each other”). Negative descriptions of relations
Figure 15. TYPES OF SPOUSAL ABUSE IN INTACT FORCED MARRIAGES
AFTER KHMER ROUGE REGIME
Figure 16. FREQUENCY OF SPOUSAL ABUSE IN INTACT FORCED MARRIAGES
AFTER KHMER ROUGE REGIME
%44.4%44.4
%7.4
%3.7
%3.7
Physical violence
Every day 1-3 times
per week
1-3 times
per month
Once per year Less than
once per year
Verbal abuse Verbal threat Rape/ sexual
violence
%11.1
%
48.1
%
22.2
%14.8
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between children and forced marriage spouses include feelings of distance, lack
of communication, and “quick to be angry with each other.” One respondent
reported, “My children hate their father because they so often see him beat their
mother.
When respondents were asked in an open-ended question if they are satised
with the intact forced marriage today, positive responses included the impor-
tance of couples helping each other, taking care of the family, and earning higher
income for the household. Responses of dissatisfaction, which were greater in
quantity, included “I do not love my spouse”; “I do not want to be with him”; “We
do not know each other, so we do not support each other”; “My spouse does not
understand me”; “My spouse is much older than me”.
Reponses also reveal disappointment around the loss of rituals surrounding the
traditional wedding ceremony: “I am so disappointed in this marriage because
I did not have a traditional wedding ceremony”; “My parents did not attend my
wedding day”; “I had no chance to select my own partner. These responses also
are reected in Case Study interviews, where respondents link the success and
good fortune of the marriage to the rites of the wedding ceremony itself.
Long-term impacts of forced marriage were reported across all spectrums—
whether the marriage remained intact or dissolved; whether the intact marriage
was reported as satisfactory or as a disappointment.
While the majority of respondents (87.6%) reported no physical problems as a
result of the forced marriage, those who do reported reproductive and other inju-
ries due to spousal abuse, beatings and rapes. A little more than a quarter of all
respondents (27.8%) reported negative sexual functioning, including gynecolog-
ical problems, lost sexual interest and lack of sexual drive, and fear of having sex
with a second spouse. One respondent commented, “I feel uncomfortable having
any sexual relations when I remember about my past.
More than two-thirds of all respondents (70.2%) reported ongoing mental
health problems, describing these in an open-ended question as “dissatisfied
with life” and grave disappointment from the forced marriage, especially when
“attending wedding ceremonies or hearing traditional wedding songs.” Some
reported being quick to anger, others of panic attacks, and still others of lingering
emotional trauma when they remember their forced marriage wedding cere-
mony. Symptoms described included “shaking inside,“sadness and suering” and
recurring nightmares, particularly of spousal rape during the forced marriage.
One third of respondents (35.4%) also stated having suered economic impacts
as a result of the forced marriage. For some respondents, these were reported
as quite severe, especially when a forced married spouse did not contribute to
the support of the family, or when a spouse separated from the family so that
all expenses and family responsibilities fell on the shoulders of the spouse who
remained. At least one respondent reported withdrawing from community
work—and therefore restricting her access to income—out of feelings of shame
and a concern she would be recognized from someone in her Khmer Rouge past.
Indeed, more than one-quarter of respondents (25.7%) reported experiencing
social problems as a result of the forced marriage, including feeling shamed
because the traditional wedding ceremony had not been followed, or being
excluded from wedding events because “my ancestors [were] not informed about
my marriage”. Respondents reported forced married couples being looked down
upon and ostracized by the community, with one respondent saying, “There is a
lot of discrimination against my family because I was forced to marry during the
Khmer Rouge time.
e. Impacts of forced marriage
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime 2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
Figure 17. IMPACTS FROM FORCED MARRIAGE ON SURVIVORS
%12.8
%70.2
%27.8
%
35.4
%25.7
Physical
problems
Mental health
problems
Problems
with sexual
functioning
Economic
problems
Social
problems
For 12% of respondents, social problems resulting from forced marriage are
reported as having an impact on children born as a result of the forced marriage,
with children being excluded from ceremonies as bride-grooms and maids and
facing more general discrimination in the community “because they think that my
children have parents who have not been ocially married.
Case study interviews validate and extend the findings of the Khmer Rouge
forced wedding ceremonies as outlined in the desk review of previous studies and
in the quantitative results of this study. Forced marriages and enforced conjugal
relations were largely without choice, most often without consent, and frequently
enforced through threats or actual punishment, including sexualized violence.
While ndings based on the present small sample of case studies are not gener-
alizable, they do provide deeper detail about the meaning and impacts of these
marriages over the short and long term.
At the same time, the case studies extend findings already established in
previous research. They suggest that local leaders may have been motivated
by political ambitions in implementing the forced marriage policy—in turn
suggesting that higher-level leaders were aware of the policy and pushed for
its implementation. The interviews indicate that husbands were compelled
to rape their wives to consummate the marriage. They give detail about the
high level of domestic abuse within forced marriages; the increase in abusive
forced marriages after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime; and the ways in which
forced marriage was experienced and carried dierent consequences for men
and women in the socio-cultural context.
The case study sample captures typical (or “average”) scenarios, as well as
extreme cases and an “existing group” case based on ethnic-religious identity. The
following analysis is based on eight interviews with nine respondents, including
a couple, interviewed together. Of the nine respondents, two are men, including
the husband of the married couple; eight identify as Khmer while one identi-
fies as Cham Muslim. All were approached to participate in a forced marriage
arranged by the regime; almost all objected, some attempted to resist, and one
woman refused entirely. Two of the women were married before the regime;
upon the executions of their husbands, they were ordered to marry again. Two of
the interviews cover forced marriages that remain intact—one happily, the other
with severe abuse. Additionally, two of the respondents were child brides (both
around 15-years-old), one married before the Khmer Rouge regime, one during
the regime.
2. CASE STUDY (QUALITATIVE) FINDINGS
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
According to case study interviews, before the Khmer Rouge took power, parents
or other relatives, usually at the request of the intended groom, consensually
arranged traditional marriages. Couples frequently knew each other from village
life or through extended kinship networks. Though the arrangement of the
wedding was taken up by the parents—that is, an extended vetting process of
social, economic and personal compatibility—parents were discouraged from
marrying children, especially daughters, against their wills.
The typical Khmer wedding ceremony is described an elaborate aair that served
to validate and legitimize the marriage in the community, the family, and the
ancestral realm. The wedding ceremony included the bride and groom, their fami-
lies and the ancestral spirits by way of multiple ritual acts—including chanting,
hair-cutting and the tying-red thread around the wrists of the couple for bless-
ings. Chanting, music and special objects and food were also needed, including
the pka sla [traditional ower], num [special wedding cake] and other desserts.
The bride and groom were dressed in multiple lavish outts over the three days of
wedding rituals.
Perhaps the most important element of the traditional Khmer ceremony, as
stressed in interviews, was the participation, acknowledgement (and thereby vali-
dation) of the wedding ritual by parents, family, elders and the ancestors. Besides
parents, traditional weddings included a me ba [the go-between for a groom and
bride], an achha [religious layperson who determined the most auspicious date
for the wedding and ociated over the ceremony] and monks. Elders also played
specic roles in these cultural and religious ritual acts. The presence of parents
was mentioned in interviews as especially important, pointing to the function
of weddings in uniting whole families in extended alliances, rather than an oath
expressed between two individuals.65
Case study interviewees described traditional denitions of a “good husband” and
a “good wife,” implicitly pointing to the tenants of Chpab Srey. A good husband” is
described as one who helped raise the children, supported the family and earned
money;66 he did not “gamble, take other wives, drink and go out all night.67 A
“good wife” cared for her husband, children and parents, thereby ensuring the
harmony of the home.68 Marriage roles were described as complimentary, with
the wife subordinate and the husband holding a greater position of power and
authority. A traditionally-dened good marriage, in the words of one respondent,
is when “the man does not cause problem at home. We are the women, so it
depends on the man, and our happiness depends on the man.69
Marriage generally, and the wedding event in particular, was reported to hold
elevated significance for women, and weddings are described as latent with
gendered signicance. In one male respondent’s words, “I think the wedding is
wonderful and glorious for women.70
Even those who were not traditionally married were knowledgeable in case study
interviews about the elements and signicance of customary marriage practices
and rites, primarily by participating in weddings as children. IBC and SC were
forced to marry under the Khmer Rouge regime and have remained together
until today. Their joint interview illuminated the motivations of and impacts on
men and women in marrying in traditional arranged marriages—an opportunity
they expressed disappointment over having missed in their own forced marriage
arrangement. In traditional marriages, they shared, love or at least compatibility,
was part of the calculation, as well as a dose of pragmatism and economic consid-
erations. Also of interest in the interview was the stress on the ceremony itself
to confer acknowledgement and legitimacy upon the marriage. The interview
explained how women experienced a radical change in marriage (“like ghost
changes the body”) in status and in subordination to a husband’s desire. To aid
the reader, the excerpt uses marriage titles rather than initials.
a. Marriage before the Khmer Rouge regime
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
66
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
67
Interview with Case Study 3, Couple (April 23, 2014).
68
Ibid.
69
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28,
2014). See also Case Study 3, Couple: “Happiness and luck of the
woman and the family depends on the actions and behavior of the
husband,” as spoken by the husband.
70
Interview with Case Study 6, Female (April 28, 2014).
65
The absence of parents at the forced wedding ceremonies of the
Khmer Rouge is mentioned in virtually all case study interviews.
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Interviewer: Does the wedding totally depend on the wishes of the parents?
Husband: Not totally, the wedding cannot happen unless there is
agreement between the children and the parents.
Interviewer: So the agreement is very important?
Wife: Yes, very important. For example, if your parents force you to
marry a man who you do not love, what would you do? If we
get married without love, we also do not have happiness in
our life, even if that man has lots of money.
Interviewer: What does marriage mean to men?
Husband: It depends on men. Some men think that they do not want to
marry because they will have children, they are afraid to lose
their freedom and they cannot go for a walk with friends.
However some men still want to get married because they
are afraid to be old and they do not want to be alone.
Wife: To me, I think that single life and living with parents are easier
than having a husband. When I have husband I think it is
dicult.
Interviewer: Why do you think it is dicult to have a husband?
Wife: I have to take care of my children, I also have to look
for money to support the family and I have to plan for my
childrens future. A women’s life has totally changed aer she
gets married, like a ‘ghost changes the body.’ We cannot go
freely for a walk; we have to inform the husband wherever
we go. If we do not respect each other, we can easily separate.
We cannot wear whatever clothes we want and we have to
inform the husband on how we spend the money. Some men
do not want their wives to wear sexy clothes, and some men
want their wives to wear short or sexy clothes. So women
have to think about their [husbands’] desire.
Interviewer: So what does marriage mean to women?
Wife: e meaning of wedding is vague. e wedding is valuable
to women because everyone acknowledges a married woman
as a good daughter who is obedient. e woman makes up
beautifully and receives a lot of guests. e wedding is very
vital for every Cambodian woman. If we loved each other
without acknowledgment from parents or relatives and we
run away [to elope], it is not good. In Cambodian tradition,
children must respect their parents and the wedding cannot
happen unless the parents accept and celebrate for them. If
the couple does not respect the parents and decides alone
to marry without the parents’ agreement, they are not good
children.
Husband: For men, it is also the same because all men have to obey
and follow the parents’ agreement. If a man wants to marry
a woman and his parents are not satised and he still gets
married with that woman, the family is not happy.71
While consent was stressed in this and numerous other interview, marriages were
considered a mark of a child’s obedience and respect for the parents, suggesting
the importance of marriages in linking entire family alliances, as well as the
social and karmic impacts of marriages that do not follow customary scripts. For
women, obedience is extended to the husband in addition to (rather than in place
of) the parents.
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
71
Interview with Case Study 3, Couple (April 23, 2014).
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Child marriage72 took place as part of traditional nuptial arrangements. One case
study interviewee, CP, was married at “around 15” to her 35-year-old husband.
CP’s story illuminated the role played by family pressure and female dependency
generally in marriage arrangements. She also recalled the close scrutiny and
restricted life choices faced by daughters as a means of preserving their chastity
and thereby elevating their value as suitable wives. She had been told by her
mother as a young girl, “You don’t need to go to school, since if you go to school
and know how to write, you may write love letters to your boyfriend.” By the
time of the marriage, arranged by CP’s sister and mother, CP’s father had already
passed away. Nevertheless, in explaining why she accepted the match with a
man old enough to be her father, CP stressed obedience to the family and to her
father’s wishes (and, by implication, to the other family ancestors) as part of her
calculation.
I did not go to school; I took care of the family bualoes and worked
hard in the field. When I received a request to marry, I give this
decision to my sister and mother. I married when I was 15 years old.
My sister said that if a rich man wanted to marry me, she would agree.
Because the man who had proposed to me had a rich family, she let
me marry him. I did not refuse. I just followed my sister, my mother,
and my father. If they wanted me to marry someone, I agreed. And
if something goes wrong with this choice, they will take care of me.
But if I chose alone, they will not take care of me if I make the wrong
decision.73
As CP and other interviewees pointed out, families who arranged weddings
were obligated to serve as important safety nets, especially for women, if the
marriage ever dissolved. Traditional marriage arrangements were described in
the interviews as consensually handed over to parents or other family members
to negotiate, with the best interest of the family and, at least for this sample, the
wishes of the intended (especially the daughter: “When parents choose, they
choose the good one for the daughter”).74 Deference to parents’ wishes was
described as a signal of maturity and respect for the family and its overall (and
trans-generational) well-being. Additionally, even in the case of CP, who could
provide only limited consent due to her young age, coercion or force was not
mentioned. CP described her consequent marriage as “harmonious” and without
abuse in the period before the Khmer Rouge takeover.
A core purpose of traditional marriage was to reproduce the family. Sexual rela-
tions were expected in marriage, with wives obliged to have sex at a husband’s
request, recalling the tenants of Chpab Srey. Before marriage, girls and women
were kept from almost all knowledge of sex in order to preserve their sexual
purity. In many interviews, women describe their first sexual encounters as
confusing, terrifying and traumatic. CP described having sex with her husband for
the rst time. Though she was exceptionally young in the sample, her response
was indicative of most of the women’s knowledge of sex and reproduction.
She also described the support of family in overcoming traumatic responses to
conjugal relations.
I thought married couples lived as siblings. I did not know that we
were to make love in this marriage… I did not allow my husband to
touch me. One time when he touched me, I ran away terried. He
asked me why I was so scared. I said that I did not know that married
people touch like this, and if I did know, I would not have agreed
to be married at all. en one day his siblings came to talk to me
and explained how married couples should act, and what couples are
supposed to do aer marriage. So, I started to understand.75
The case study interviews demonstrated the cultural importance of traditional
marriage as an institution that served to align families and strengthen social
fabric. As such, marriages were often consensually arranged, with parents or
other family members matching couples through a variety of criteria. Consent
of both intended was proered and force was discouraged, according to custom
and as described in the interviews. These customs may have served as a protec-
tive measure in instances, especially for daughters, even as traditional marriage
entrenched gendered power imbalances between men and women. Signicantly,
appropriate wedding arrangements are described as impacting karmic status to
some degree, either by signifying merit in past lives or in allowing for the accumu-
lation of merit for future lives for the largely Buddhist population.
75
Interview with Case Study 2, Female (April 25, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
72
Generally, children are not considered to be in a position to give
freely informed consent, due to a lack of decision-making maturity
as well as the power imbalances in families.
73
Interview with Case Study 2, Female (April 25, 2014). See also
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
74
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
7574
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
All of the case study interviews were asked to marry by the Khmer Rouge and
finally did so, with the exception of two women who were severely punished
for their refusals—both by rape, one by sexual slavery. Generally, the forced
marriages are described in total as without meaningful choice or consent and
coerced through threatened or actual punishment.
Commitment ceremonies and marriage assignments
The forced marriage events held by the Khmer Rouge were described in
stark contrast to traditional marriage ceremonies, and may be better termed
wedding procedures. KN, a Muslim, recounts in her interview that they were
called “commitment ceremonies” rather than weddings.76 Khmer Rouge forced
wedding procedures were described by the sample as mass events of up to
hundreds of couples. All wedding procedures were arranged and ociated by
Khmer Rouge actors at various levels, including leadership positions.77 Couples
exchanged a short oath of allegiance to each other and to Angkar. In one of
the wedding procedures recounted by an interviewee, couples repeated oaths
explicitly mentioning an obligation to have children and reproduce.78 Most
forced marriage wedding procedures in the sample took place at night after the
workday and lasted only a few minutes.79
Most of the respondents had no prior notice of the wedding procedure or were
told (by cadre or other Khmer Rouge agents) just hours ahead of the event. In one
divergent example, the couple interviewed was informed a few days in advance
and in public at the nightly meetings of their separate work sites, suggesting that
some mass marriages may have been arranged by matching nearby work camps
en masse. Most interviewees came directly from the eld to their wedding proce-
dures, in tattered work clothes of the typical Khmer Rouge uniform—black shirt
and bottom, perhaps a krama [traditional scarf ]. Others were lied to and told they
were going somewhere else before being led to the ceremony. PS described how
she learned she would be participating in her own wedding during a time when
the entire population was overworked and starving:
76
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
77
Interview with Case Study 2, Female (April 25, 2014) describes
being ordered to marry by a “Captain” responsible for the oversight
of hundreds of people.
78
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014); Interview
with Case Study 3, Couple (April 23,2014).
79
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014): “Cadre Y and X
discussed with each other, ‘We do not need to give the whole day to
break to be married. Just let them work as usual, and we will have
the wedding right after work.’”
I did not know I was being forced to marry. I was carrying a yoke
of cow excrement to ll in the rice eld that day at work. ey did not
tell me, I just saw people walked in pairs into the hall, and I asked the
cadre, ‘Mith Bong [Senior Comrade], why are so many people going
inside that place?’ She replied, ‘You also need to go with them.’ I asked
why and she responded, ‘Go to that place you can eat fully.80
Some case study interviewees described differences between events held for
“old” people or “new” people. HK recounted the differences in her work camp
in Battambang between the wedding procedures of “base” people and “new”
people, with the latter married during the work day, allowed to perform certain
traditional rituals (“I fed my husband the rst rice”), and served duck after the
ceremony in order “to keep the rst couples in the village happy.” When asked
why the Khmer Rouge in her village forced people to marry, she responded: “In
fact, they wanted to attract attention from their leaders to upgrade their position.
Maybe they could get a promotion by showing the number of couples who got
married in their village.81 This suggests that higher-level leaders knew and incen-
tivized the implementation of the policy.
In all aspects of life, Angkar took over the role of the parent, exacting total loyalty
and obedience.82 This role extended to forced marriages, where parents were not
only excluded but their roles usurped and distorted by the state. Couples were
not so much arranged to be married as assigned to undergo state-facilitated
commitment procedures. Most pairs assigned by Angkar were described in the
sample as arbitrary matches of “new” people to “new” people and “old” people to
“old” people. Couples were described as mismatched in terms of compatibility
(most often related to education, social background or physical attraction). KN
described how “Islam mixed with Khmers” in assigned couples.83
b. Forced marriages and enforced conjugal
relations under the Khmer Rouge regime
80
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014).
81
Interview with Case Study 6, Female (April 28, 2014).
82
Interview with Case Study 1, Male (April 29, 2014): “We are the
children of Angkar now. No need for parents.”
83
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
In this instance, her assigned Khmer Buddhist husband eventually
converted to Islam and was absorbed into her community, but the
interviewee described how some Muslim women were forced to
choose between Khmer Buddhist husbands and their religious
community (including family of origin) in mixed marriages.
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
7776
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
The radical transformation of the marriage ceremony, most particularly in
excluding the role of parents and ritual rites, was mentioned in all interviews as
a grave and traumatic loss. While refusal will be discussed more fully below, CP
described the aront to dignity she took the regime’s forced marriage arrange-
ments to be: “I refused because there were no parents, no music, no relatives, no
wise man, no dresses or make-up, and my husband was a stranger. I only knew his
name and then I was asked to marry him.84
Men were mentioned in many case study interviews as able to request their
intended spouses, mimicking traditional practice. Yet Angkar held the ultimate
power to assign mates and approve marriages. HO estimated that perhaps half
of the couples in her unit were assigned solely by Angkar, with the remainder
involving a request from a man for a certain wife. Women, HO recounted, were
not allowed to make such requests. She described:
Man at that time made the request to the cadre. ere was a cadre
for the group of women and cadre for the group of men, managing
between 50 and 100 people. When a man made a request, the leader of
the male youth group made a list of the mens names and the womens
names, and then they sent the request to the leader of the female youth
group, and then at the meeting she would announce, ‘Oh Mith A
[Comrade A], there is a man who requests marriage to you… Angkar
now will marry you to this man.’ A man cannot simply request from
the woman. Angkar had to allow the request, and they looked up our
history and family background to make sure it is similar before they
approve. If we have relatives killed by Angkar, then we are khmang
[enemy]. For example in my case, Angkar killed my father, so I had a
bad background because I was involved with khmang. e man that
requested me to marry is related to khmang, too, so they approved the
request. is they called ‘t background.
Yet, even with what appears to be an opportunity for choice, men’s requests
are described often as strategic decisions in an environment where individuals
ultimately were forced to be assigned to a mate. Signicantly, case study inter-
views also revealed the strength of family and kinship bonds even under such
84
Interview with Case Study 2, Female (April 25, 2014).
dire circumstances. While couples most often were strangers and did not directly
know each other, informal networks were used to learn more about an assigned
spouse, retaining some human element in an otherwise inhumane system as
recounted in interviews. A couple might have worked near to each other at a
work site, or they may have been familiar with each other from a home village,
but they had never talked.85 HO recounted:
e male youth maybe saw that woman or knows her name because
they work together, or they have relatives or siblings that work closely
with that woman, and his siblings might say ‘Oh you should request
this woman, she is good like this or like that’… A man gets to know
about a woman through this network. In my case, my husbands cousin
worked with me, and she told my husband to request to marry me
even though I had never met him. She told my husband, ‘You should
request to marry her, she is gentle and a good worker.’ So he requested
to marry me.86
HK described multiple marriage proposals from the female kin of her eventual
forced-married husband. Her story demonstrated how the kinship network could
be used to further exacerbate oppressively enforced system, as well as how
unmarried women held the least power in the forced marriage scheme.
K requested me to marry her nephew. I refused only once and she
did not force me because she was also a new citizen, the same as
me. en I went in the kitchen to work and K’s sister was there and
requested me to marry. I refused again, but my third refusal did not
work because she said the request was prepared by Ankgar. She said to
me, ‘If you do not agree, you will be killed.’ I recalled that I wanted to
rejoin my family and to see how the country developed, and I did not
want to die. Finally, I agreed to marry my husband because I thought
that everyone died easily at that time, and I could run away from my
husband aer Khmer Rouge regime ended.
85
Interview with Case Study 3, Couple, Wife (April 23, 2014).
86
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014). See also
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
7978
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Not all men requested their wives. SBC described how his team leader informed
him one night, “Comrade, prepare your things as you will go to help with another
battle. After travelling for a few kilometers, he arrived at a ceremony already taking
place. SBC asked the chhlob, “Did you bring me here to marry?” SBC objected,
saying he did not even know his assigned mate, and the chhlob replied, “Even if
you do not know her, Angkar has prepared this marriage for you and you must
accept.87
Survival was described as the greatest motivation for accepting forced marriages.
Punishment or threat of punishment was an ever-present lived reality. HO echoed
other interviews (some of which are quoted above): “Even if I did not agree at that
time, I have no choice because I might be harmed if I refuse, so I just endured,
[but] he was not the husband I had hoped for.88 Other motivations for accepting
forced marriage requests included a desire to remain in or be relocated to a
certain village closer to family.89
Of interest, six of the eight interviewees were forced to marry in the later part of
the Khmer Rouge regime, some only months before the regime’s fall, pointing to a
possible spike in assigned commitment ceremonies in late 1978.90
Forced conjugal relations and rape
Forced sex was part of the forced marriage policy. Following the Khmer Rouge
commitment ceremony between assigned spouses, interviewees explained that
couples remained together for a few days and were expected to consummate
the marriage, most often under the surveillance of cadre or other Khmer Rouge
actors. Many interviewees described small huts or rooms, often with little privacy,
constructed by the Khmer Rouge and used for the purpose of enforced consum-
mation. HO recounted:
e rooms were next to one another, small as a mat, and they used
palm leaf to make the walls, and the hall was very long, with bamboo
for the oor. You could see from one room to another through the
walls, and the rooms were not covered fully. Aer the wedding they
brought us to the room and guarded us, investigated us to make sure
we were getting along.91
The majority of women interviewees mentioned the humiliation they felt in these
rooms, compounded by their fear at having their rst sexual encounter within,
at best, a dubious “marriage” context. Most had little knowledge about sex, in
keeping with the chastity and purity of women expected under the cultural
codes of Chpab Srey. HO shared, “At that time, we [women] did not know what
would happen on the wedding night. The youth at that time knew nothing
about marriage.92 Many of the women case study respondents described being
mortied upon rst meeting their husbands, usually perfect strangers, nding
it improper to look him in the face or to hold hands as the wedding procedure
required. HK remarked, “That night, my husband touched my hand and I did not
know what he wanted to do.93 Many of the women respondents in particular
described being confused and unsure of their status as married. KN shared, “I did
not know if he is my husband or not but I did not know what else I could do. There
was no love, just sex, but I cannot refuse.94 She described her rst nights as a wife
and the days that followed:
It was strange in that regime. I was afraid because I did not know
my husband and I was nervous because I am a woman, but I agreed
because I didn’t want to be killed. ey provided us with a room in
the rice hall. ey built the room for us. It was made from wood and
close to the other rooms, but not close enough to see each other. My
husband asked me, ‘You have committed to me, do you love me or
not?’ We agreed between each other because we didn’t want to be
killed. My husband said: ‘If we don’t agree, we will be killed as chhlob
is following us now.’ I was afraid of having sex, since I had no idea how
it is done. We stayed together for one week, and then they separated
us to work in dierent places, and then we could only meet each other
once per month.95
87
Interview with Case Study 1, Male (April 29, 2014).
88
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
89
Interview with Case Study 3, Couple (April 23, 2014).
90
Mentioned in Case Studies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8.
91
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
92
Ibid.
93
Interview with Case Study 6, Female (April 28, 2014).
94
Ibid.
95
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
8180
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
As the excerpt indicates, couples did mutually agree to have sex for survival. HO
explained: “How can we separate? We agree among each other to live as husband
and wife since there is nothing else to do. Love or no love, we stayed together to
prevent being killed.96 Pregnancy was a constant fear for women in an atmos-
phere of forced sex, coupled with extremely dire living conditions. KN described:
We had nothing to eat, so I did not want children but what else could
I do? If I wanted to have an abortion, how could I do it? I was worried
that Angkar would nd out, and there was no doctor, no medicine for
birth control. I knew we would have children if we had sex but I didn’t
know what to do. I have three children with him.97
Couples also mutually agreed to not have sex, a form of subterfuge against Khmer
Rouge surveillance. The husband-wife couple interviewed described the early
days of their forced marriage. They did not have sex until after the fall of the
Khmer Rouge, resisting the state’s oppressive controls. The agreement was mutual
but driven by the wife, who faced a double jeopardy in terms of the conicting
cultural expectations that a good daughter does not marry without her parents’
consent, but that a good wife is obligated to have sex with her husband. Added to
this, all couples were expected by the Khmer Rouge to consummate the marriage,
enforced with severe penalties. Initials are changed to marital titles to assist the
reader in the excerpt below.
Wife: First, I was afraid that the cadres would know we did not sleep
together. Second, I was scared my husband would force me to
have sex.
Husband: I did not dare to sleep near my wife.
Interviewer: Why?
Husband: Because I did not know or even talk to her before.
96
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
97
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
Wife: Then a team leader named X accused me of not having
sex with my husband. I responded, “What are you talking
about?” He said he could tell I wasn’t having sex with my
husband just by looking at my body.
Husband: e team leader also asked me, and he asked, “How is your
relationship with your wife?” I just answered, “It is good”.
Husbands were expected by Khmer Rouge actors to ensure sexual relations took
place, and husbands pressured their wives in turn, according to case study inter-
views. SBC recalled the extreme shyness of his wife the rst months of marriage,
embarrassed and surprised to be spied upon by the chhlob each night, and
waking up much earlier than him so the two would not awake in the same bed.
For the rst few months they did not have sexual relations, but only slept side by
side. After a few months, a cadre warned him, “I know that you do not love your
wife, Comrade, and I see that you make many mistakes. If you do not respect
Angkars path, be careful. When SBC was warned a second time, he had a “frank
conversation” with his wife to have sex to “save their lives.” She continued to
adamantly refuse but they eventually did have sex. SBC remembers, “I thought my
wife would not sleep with me unless she loved me. I did not have feelings to have
sex with her or even keep her as my wife as I did not love her at all.98
Half of the case study interviews with women described being raped by their
husbands. In the case of PS, her rape was aided and abetted by Khmer Rouge
cadre. A child bride, she was forced to marry around the age of 15, before she
had begun to menstruate. Her assigned husband was a man almost twice her
age, 28 or 29 years old. Her father and uncle had been soldiers with the previous
government, executed in the early days of the Khmer Rouge regime, and PS was
considered a “new” person with enemy associations. She recounted her wedding
and the rst nights of her forced marriage:
98
Interview with Case Study 1, Male (April 29, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
8382
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
When I saw people start holding hands, I tried to walk away. I said I
did not want to do that, I have no mother, I am young, I did not want
to do that. I tried to run away and a cadre shot into the air. ey told
me, ‘To keep you is useless and to kill you is no waste.’ I was ordered
to sit across from my husband, but I did not know him, he was much
older than me and a big guy. I dared not look at him. ey ordered us
to hold hands and I refused, so they threatened me again with a gun. I
cried and begged to them ‘I am too young and I am not mature yet to
marry’. I did not understand what love is. And I had no mother near
me to explain about woman’s menstruation, things like this. I was not
with my parents, to receive care and protection from them… [Aer the
wedding] they brought us to the house with small rooms. I don’t want
to talk about that. My husband tried to force me to have sex with him
for three nights but I refused. My husband tried to undress me but I
fought back, I kicked him when he tried to undress me. is way, the
rst night passed… On the third night I escaped to another cooperative
but the chhlob brought my husband to nd me… e guards said it
was almost a week and we still did not sleep together, so tonight we
must have sex. I did not agree. I said I did not care if I died. ere
were two guards, and one among them is still alive until today. ey
tied my legs and my arms to the bed and then they walked away from
the bed. And that f--king husband raped me, he tore o my pants, and
the two guards stood there and watched. My husband raped me and
did whatever he wanted to me. He tore my pants and shirt. I felt so
shameful. My uncle was in the next room, he saw what happened to me
and just shook his head. My uncle couldn’t bear to watch but there was
nothing he could do. Aer [my husband] raped me, he did not want to
release me, he still wanted me tied up because he wanted to rape me
again… I cried for help and asked him please do not do this! But [my
husband] said he cannot help me because he must follow Angkar. ey
said they had married us to produce children for Angkar.99
99
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25).
The rape resulted in profuse vaginal bleeding, for which PS was informally advised
by a doctor to apply herbal remedy as there were no functioning hospitals. The
last lines of the excerpt suggest her husband may himself have felt forced to rape
her, in the presence of the cadre, for his own survival—or, at least, he uses the
state policy as the rationale to justify the rape.
KL also was raped by her assigned husband on the night of their forced marriage
wedding, and she was thereafter subjected to a relationship of “beating and
arguing” throughout the regime and until today. Her account showed how the
repressive policies of the regime could be easily used to continue marital sexual-
ized abuse and reinforce it.
Chhlob always inspected my husband and me every night. If I did
not agree to have sex with my husband, I would be sent to be ‘re-
educated,’ thus I never refused my husband and just let my husband
do what he wanted. e relationship between my husband and me was
not so good because my husband was not an open man and he did not
understand partnership. I lived with him without happiness and even
today we are still together. I still live with him because I felt pity for my
children and I did not want my children to be orphans.100
According to case study interviewees, forced marriage and enforced conjugal
relations as established under the Khmer Rouge regime created a culture of
rape, where husbands were pressured to sexually and physically abuse wives
with impunity, at times directly supported by Khmer Rouge cadre, and in some
instances, it can be assumed, for survival. Wives had no recourse to hospitals,
police, or rule of law to protect their rights. Many individuals attempted to resist, a
few couples only pretended to have sex and others capitulated to the demands of
the regime under the constant watch of spies and most frequently motivated by a
desire to survive.
100
Interview with Case Study 6, Female (April 28, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
8584
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Resistance and punishment
All of the case studies described some form of resistance and subterfuge
surrounding forced marriage. A few interviewees reported refusing forced
marriage requests by Khmer Rouge agents multiple times but then being threat-
ened with punishment or death if they did not ultimately accept. KN explained, “I
said twice I will not marry but when I nally agreed, they said, ‘One or two times
[to refuse] is okay but the third time, you cannot.’”101 HO recounted: The cadre
told me, ‘Mith, this date you will need to marry and your partner is this man. You
cannot refuse. Even if you don’t want to be married, you must marry. Because
Angkar arranged this for you, you cannot refuse.’”102
A culture of rape also extended to punishment, which could entail sexualized
violence. Two of the female respondents married prior to the regime suspected
their husbands’ executions were related to other men—Khmer Rouge actors—
wanting to marry them.103 Both women were imprisoned and raped for their
refusals to marry. SO’s husband had been executed by her brother-in-law, a
Khmer Rouge soldier, for being in the army of the previous government. She was
pregnant at the time. When her first child was six-months-old, another broth-
er-in-law, her dead sister’s husband, proposed marriage. She suspects the two
brothers-in-law of being complicit. The brother-in-law who proposed to her
was the logistic director for the district, a powerful position in charge of over-
seeing rice and food rationing. When she refused the proposal, she was sent to
prison. She was released ve months later by this same brother-in-law and sent
to her mother’s house. There, he attempted to rape her and when gossip began
to spread around the village he proposed marriage (indicating that, at least at
certain levels, Khmer Rouge actors were free to choose their marriage partners).
She refused three times, primarily on the grounds she was newly widowed and he
was an uneducated Khmer Rouge ocial (“and Khmer Rouge kill Cambodians”).
Her mother tried to convince her to accept the marriage to save her own life and
that of her infant child. For his fourth proposal, the brother-in-law was accompa-
nied by two men, one of whom was a village ocial. SO described:
‘Marry me please, and you can live easily,’ he said. I replied, ‘Hmm,
my husband just died so I cannot marry you.’ He continued, ‘You may
confront many problems unless you marry me.’ He also asked me,
Aren’t you afraid of dying?’ I answered, ‘I am not afraid of dying at
all. I do not care. If I die and no one looks aer my son, just let him
die aer me.’ On that night, he ordered the young soldiers to come to
my house and tie me up. It was around 8 pm, when I was preparing
to sleep. When my mother asked [why they were taking me away],
they responded, ‘Your daughter made mistakes.’ My mother continued,
‘What are her mistakes?’ ey answered, ‘She refuses to get married.’ I
fully recognized that my brother-in-law was responsible for this. Aer
they tied me up, they took me into a tractor where there were already
several women.104
The women were brought to a nearby pagoda used as a prison, where they were
shackled and brought to a room with 10 others, men and women.
ere were ve to seven young soldiers who came to rape the new
prisoners, including me, by using their big toes. ose soldiers were
about 20-years-old or younger. They shouted to me and the other
women to strip o our skirts and they started pushing their big toes
into our [vaginas]. ey always did this to the new prisoners.105
CP also experienced severe punishment, describing how she was kept as a sex
slave in a prison brothel for refusing to marry her husband’s executioner. She was
three months pregnant at the time. She recounted:
Yes, Captain J loved me and my husband was killed because of
that…When I knew that, I shouted loudly and said, ‘Please bring
back my husband!’ en I was chained up and brought to prison for
the night. e next morning, Captain J released me. I was brought
by some cadre to the Chinese school and told I was going to plant
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
101
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
102
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
103
Interview with Case Study 2, Female (April 25, 2014); Interview
with Case Study 7, Female (April 28, 2014).
104
Interview with Case Study 7, Female (April 28, 2014).
105
Ibid.
IV RESULTS IV RESULTS
8786
“Like ghost changes body”
A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
potatoes. When I arrived, there were nine pairs of men and women,
including me. I asked, ‘You brought me to plant potatoes, right?’ e
cadre replied, ‘No, you came here to marry Captain J.’ Hearing that I
cried. I was determined that I wouldn’t marry. Each pair was told to
hold hands, and when it was my turn, I said, ‘No, I don’t know whose
husband this is! I won’t marry, even if I am killed now, I won’t marry!
I don’t know where my parent and sibling are!’ Captain J slapped me
on my face, and he used his shoe to hit me on my head several times.
He asked, ‘Marry or not?’ I still said, ‘No, no!’ … Captain J said to the
guard, ‘Bring her there [back to the prison] and I will rape her later.
At the prison, they took of my shirt and pants and chained me up…
e more I tried to move, the more the chain became tighter… then
the young soldiers, around 15- or 16 years-old, used their shoes to
touch my vagina, and they kneaded my breast and kissed me until I
lost consciousness… When I awoke in the morning, I saw Captain J
beside me. He said, ‘See? If you agreed to marry me, you would not be
in trouble right now. But even if you do not agree, I already have you.
And every night, I did not know where those young soldiers came from,
but they came and hit me and raped me until I lost consciousness, and
when I woke up I saw Captain J beside me.
CP recounted how her punishment was not an isolated case and how sexualized
violence was part of the punishment for refusal of forced marriage.
I was not the only one there. There were between 20 to 50, all
women. Some cases were brought here because they had refused to
marry, like my case. ey raped those women. Using their penises,
putting them in our mouths or touching our face. I have no idea how
many people raped me per night. ey raped women in front of us and
I just closed my eyes. My body was shaking. I cried day and night. e
other women there also screamed and cried. ere was one girl, she
was so beautiful but she died aer one night because they raped her to
death.106
Forced marriages as instituted by the Khmer Rouge regime were harrowing by
all case study accounts. Choice was largely eliminated, except in those instances
where husbands were supported in their choice to abuse or rape wives in a veri-
table culture of marital rape with impunity. Consent was rendered meaningless
in an environment of real and threatened punishment. Sexual violence, particu-
larly against women, was used to consummate the marriage, as well as to punish
those who did not comply with Angkars forced marriage and enforced conjugal
relations policy. The institution of forced marriage as described was a humiliating
aront to human dignity and an oense to essential cultural principles.
When in 1979 the Khmer Rouge fell to Vietnamese invading forces, the scene
was one of overwhelming human suering, with families attempting to recon-
stitute surviving members and lost property and homelands. Added to this was
a civil war, as state security forces sought to quell the lingering Khmer Rouge
insurgency. Interviews described the confusion in this period over the status of
marriages conducted under the regime. Couples were forced to decide whether
to stay together or separate on a case-by-case basis and as part of other calcu-
lations on how best to survive in the post-regime devastation. A few of the case
study interviews with those forced to marry recounted marriages that remained
together for at least some period after the fall of the regime. Two of the couples
have remained together until today—one harmoniously, the other in an abusive
forced marriage where escape has been impossible. Other forced marriages were
dissolved by death, divorce, separation or abandonment.
The married couple interviewed did not initially plan to stay together, and
their interview demonstrated how couples might have stayed together out of
pragmatism in the face of devastated social and family networks post-regime.
IBC and SC recounted the early days after the fall of the regime, when people
were searching for surviving family members, hiding in forests from Khmer Rouge
cadre or out of fear of Vietnamese invading forces. Extended family members
played a role in keeping the marriage intact, indicating that traditional marriage
customs were revitalized, slowly, during the period. In many interviews, including
this one, shared tragedy and mutual aid became the foundation for attachment
—IBC and SC, for example, share their interview small of acts of mutual kindness
that at times meant the dierence between survival or death—sharing of food
or helping to nish work quotas. Marriage titles are used in the excerpt below to
assist ease of reading.
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
c. Marriage after the Khmer Rouge regime
106
Interview with Case Study 2, Female (April 25, 2015).
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Husband: My mother did not want me to leave my wife and she
had ox-carts. So she asked me to pick up my wife to
come live with us because she did not want her to live
only with her [own] mother. So I went to nd my wife
and bring her to my mother.
Wife: At that time, I did not have any ox-cart, my mother
got very sick, and we had some material, such as rice,
plates and pots that I had to carry when we travelled.
Husband: I went to pick her at 12 pm… In fact, I also wanted her
to live with us because we could take care of each other
along the way in the forest. [Later] when we were in
the forest together, we encountered diculties and we
helped each other. We started to feel good towards each
other then.
Wife: at day, my brother said to me, ‘Who is riding the ox-
cart?’ I turned to see my husband and wondered why
he was in my village. I prepared to continue on to my
destination with my mother and I did not care where
he went with his family.
Interviewer: Did you plan to meet your husband?
Wife: No. His mother asked him to fetch my mother and me. He
said, ‘My mother asked me to come get you so we can
stay all together and take care of each other.’ I thought
that I did not have any transport and I was afraid that
I could not run to freedom [if the Khmer Rouge caught
us] unless I went with him. So my husband took my
stu and my mother to the ox-cart, and we went to live
with my husband’s family.107
They eventually had seven children together, the rst born in 1980. Too poor to
have a traditional wedding ceremony in those days, in 2000 they did manage to
take wedding portraits dressed in traditional garb.
The only other forced marriage still intact among the case study sample is an
abusive forced marriage where the wife has not been successful in escape.
Abusive forced marriage can be expected to be among the hardest to dissolve
due to retaliation, economic dependency, fear of relinquishing children and
trauma resulting from the abuse. HK rst tried to escape the abusive forced-mar-
ried husband immediately after the fall of the regime in 1979. Thinking she was
“released from him” and that the marriage was no longer valid, she travelled alone
to her home village. Two months later her assigned husband found her, when
she was ve months pregnant. HK explained her decision in deciding to stay in
the marriage: “Because I was pregnant and I did not have any relatives, and I did
not have any money, and I did not want my children to grow up with troubles
because they didn’t have a family. She continued to describe the marriage more
than 30 years later:
When I sued him for divorce and the policemen arrested and
educated him, he beat me when he came back home. I still have a scar
on my elbow because he stabbed me in 2012 while I was sleeping in
front of the television; he locked the door and stabbed me; I shouted
for my childrens help. My children almost could not save me at that
time because the door was locked… During that regime, I just accepted
the marriage and had sexual relations to save my life. Then I had
children with my husband, and that is the reason I continued to live
with him.108
Children are mentioned as a prime motivation by all of the interviewees when
recounting marriages that remained intact for at least for a period of time.
108
Interview with Case Study 6, Female (April 28, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
107
Interview with Case Study 3, Couple (April 23, 2014).
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High levels of abuse in marriages that remained intact are recounted in inter-
views. In addition to HK, three other women interviewees mentioned domestic
abuse in their forced marriages, most particularly after the fall of the regime.
KN was successful in securing a divorce, primarily because she was able to nd
protective shelter in her Cham Muslim community (her assigned husband was a
Khmer Buddhist). She recounted:
He drank with other men in the village and he beat me. In 2006,
I decided to divorce. I was the one who decided. I reported to the
commune chief to help me because I had such hardship living with
him… When he found out about the divorce, my husband threatened
me with a knife and I had to run to another villager’s house to hide.109
Interviewees also mentioned domestic violence and marital breakdown occurring
after husbands were mobilized into the army in 1993. This points to the stress
of the ongoing conict on male behavior and choices, as well as the continuing
insecurity felt by women—especially those trapped in unsupportive or abusive
forced marriages—in these years of continued civil turbulence. KN said, At rst
he was okay, he listened to me, but since 1993 [when he became a solider], he
started drinking and he became so mean. He beat me; he did not listen to me
anymore.110 PS described, “He went to be soldier and had aairs with other girls
out there. He was soldier and he got plenty of girls.111 HO explained, “Before he
left to work as a soldier he was okay. He did the farming and made the sugar; he
helped with raising the children. He was ne, but when he became a soldier, he
changed.112
As outlined in Section 2, other research points to the surplus of “widows”—the
term used to describe married women without husbands, by any means. Case
study interviews linked forced marriages to the increase in abandonment of
husbands and polygamy, with wives left to support children and elders in the
family. PS explained, “He escaped with a girl to the Thai border and did not come
back. Our children were looking at other children’s fathers who did come back
for their children but my husband did not come back to us.113 HO described her
husband’s multiple polygamous marriages:
We separated at the time when my husband was a soldier. He was
stationed in Kampot town and he had an aair. He had many girls.
When he had earned some money, he got married to another wife
and le me at home to care for the mother-in-law. We also had three
children. I knew about this marriage because in Kampot this issue was
not secret. I did not know what to do. I could not leave my house to go
look for my husband because I had a house and children, a cow to take
care of. When I heard about him getting married, I just stayed at home;
I did nothing. When he thinks about me, he will come, I thought… He
had many wives, a bunch of wives. Finally, I went to the place where
he was getting married. I took the train. My older daughter was about
10-years-old. I met his boss and led a complaint to stop the marriage,
saying he will not be able to do his duty to me. e morning of the
wedding, his boss took him to the encampment and did not allow him
to go to the wedding hall, so his wife married his clothes instead114
Aer one month, he still had not come back home; he was mad at me
for stopping him from getting married. I waited one month, then I
asked my parents-in-law to leave and go back to live with my mother.
I had three children and no one to help me raise them. I had built the
house we lived in, so when I le, I dismantled the house and took it
with me115… Other men [later] requested to marry me but I did not
agree. I decided myself and I was determined not to be married again.
I was fed up for the rest of my life aer my experience with my rst
husband that I had to work and raise the children alone and life at that
time was so hard for me.116
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
109
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
110
Ibid.
111
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014).
112
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
113
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014).
114
Khmer practice allows for in abstensia marriages.
115
See also Bricknell, “’Plates in a basket,’” on women physically
removing the house upon divorce.
116
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
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Despite what is an empowered decision to claim self-reliance, HO’s life and that
of her children were severely impacted by her husband’s abandonment and her
ultimate divorce. She described the many hardships she faced:
In the rainy season, when I was working on rice field, I had no
husband to help [with the hard manual labor]. I had small children,
and I went out to the rice eld and do farming. At that time we had
bualoes, so I took care of the bualoes at night. By the time I got
home, all my children had fallen asleep. It was late at night when I
would nish the cooking.117
Remarriage and, especially for women, pressure to remarry after the dissolution
of a forced marriage was evident as described in interviews. Five of the eight
case studies remarried by choice after the fall of the regime, including the male
interviewee (Case Study 1) and the woman who was held as a sexual slave (Case
Study 2). This suggests that cultural expectations and condence in the institution
of marriage remained strong after the fall of the regime, especially as it involved
family and ritual practice. Remarriage also could serve to rectify or at least reme-
diate the indignities of forced marriage, especially when customary rites were
followed, according to interviewees.
Nevertheless, prospects for remarriage after the regime were impacted by the
fact of forced marriage during the regime, in particular for women, demonstrating
that Chpab Srey continued to hold sway in how women were valued based on
sexual purity and a cohesive harmonious household. As described in the inter-
views, women faced a double bind: to be unmarried after a forced marriage or
to have “too many husbands” by remarrying. Men, held to a different gender
standard and conferred status above and beyond marriage, did not face these
same impacts, according to interviews. Polygamous relationships demonstrated
the tolerance for men to have multiple wives, sequentially or simultaneously,
without fear of stigma or depreciated prospects. The “surplus” of women to men
at the time also gave men an added advantage on the remarriage market.
Stigma, especially against women, was strong around forced marriages that
dissolved. Though they occurred in large numbers, forced marriages were
described in interviews with women as inferior marriages: they excluded both
117
Ibid.
the permission of parents as well as the customary validation and legitimacy
conferred by traditional ceremonies. This had a particularly adverse impact when
the forced marriages dissolved. Family reputation was at stake and, unlike in tradi-
tionally arranged marriages, the family could not be counted on as a safety net
in the event of marital breakdown. KN explained how her forced marriage to an
abusive husband (with whom she divorced in 2006) impacted her prospects later
in life:
It is because of forced marriage that I can’t marry a better man. I did
not remarry aer the divorce because I was afraid my next husband
would harm me again and might not be good to my children. I know
in this case I can choose for myself and that my mother can prepare my
wedding. I am upset because I did not have a ceremony like nowadays.
I am more upset that my husband turned out to be so cruel but I can’t
be angry with my mother because she is not the one who arranged the
match. I am angry at Pol Pot and I think the forced marriage under
the Khmer Rouge is a very bad crime.118
PS, who had been forced to marry at gunpoint as a child bride and then was
brutally raped by her husband with the assistance of Khmer Rouge guards,
recalled the discrimination she faced when trying to remarry after the regime
fell. Signicantly, she also outlined the pressure from community to rectify the
damaged status of a forced-marriage “widow” through the rites of a proper
wedding:
I decided to remarry when I heard the old people in the village come
to tell my mother that I should have a traditional wedding… When the
regime ended, there was a man who loved me. We loved each other. So
he asked his mother to come and talk to my mother. When she came,
she whispered to her son, ‘Ah, she was married during Khmer Rouge,
son. She is a widow, so I won’t agree that you marry her.’ He tried to
convince his mother that he did not care if I was a widow or not. He
wanted to marry me. His mother still did not agree, so he asked me to
elope. I thought that during the Khmer Rouge time, I suered a lot and
118
Interview with Case Study 8, Islam Khmer Female (June 28, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
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now I should not elope because it will destroy my family’s reputation.
en he married another woman. I just cried alone.119
Determined to be “damaged goods” due to the rst (forced) marriage, PS even-
tually remarried an abusive husband. She described how strongly held were the
tenet of Chpab Srey to silently endure abuse to preserve family honor rather than
seek divorce a second time:
After that, I was determined to not let anyone know about that
first marriage. Even my children did not know… Later, when the
Vietnamese pulled their troops out of Cambodia, there was a soldier
who loved me. His mother and father came to talk with my mother. He
was a widower, too, with one child. So I assumed that, as we are both
widows, he might not look down on me. He did not know what had
happened to me during the Khmer Rouge and he did not ask. But that
life was not good. He had a lot of girls. He beat me. He forced me to
have sex with him, which is the habit of man, and [as his wife] I had
no right to say no or to decide. For me, I only wanted a happy family,
so I did not say anything about it. I tried to earn money for children to
go to school. For him, he did not help to earn. He came and stayed and
then le.
I think that the husband from the Khmer Rouge time was wrong as
we did not love and agree with each other. When I remarried again, I
made the agreement and based it on my own decision and the parents
agreed too. If I wanted to divorce again, it will ruin my reputation. If
I ran away from him, I will feel shame from other people again. So I
endured. I have children and if I leave, where should I go? e shame
from Khmer Rouge time is still there and, if I leave this husband, how
would others judge me as a woman? I thought a lot and I am not an
educated person. I tried to work hard and to endure to stay with him
so my children could have a father… I have six children with him and
one foster child.120
119
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014)
120
Ibid.
The Khmer Rouge legacy, including of sexual and gender-based violence, such as
rapes and forced marriage, followed women long after the regime had fallen. For
unmarried women, or those abandoned after the regime, they often continued
to live in a culture of rape and impunity. To return to the story of CP, who was
subjected to daily gang rapes and beatings by cadres and nightly rapes by a
Khmer Rouge official, she described having little choice in remarrying for her
own protection. Upon returning to her village after the fall of the regime, she
recounted being repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted as an unmarried
woman, prompting her to marry again:
Life at that time was so hard. Men who were already married came
to my house at night and disturbed me, teasing me, trying to persuade
me to [make] love [to] them. Sometimes when I went to the market
or joined a ceremony in the village, they blocked me in the road and
tried to hug me and touch me and I tried to escape. I told my mother
and relatives and they suggested that I marry my cousin. I cried as if it
was in Khmer Rouge time… I cried because I felt pity for myself… My
life was so miserable. I told those men’s wives that I did not love their
husbands and I asked them to please watch out that their husbands do
not to disturb me. My sister suggested I get married if someone asked
me to because my life was so terrible. I decided to marry again to have
someone protect me and to avoid those men who tried to assault me.
If it were not because of that I would not marry again because I don’t
want people to say I have had so many husbands. But my siblings
could not protect me during the nighttime when men tried to sexually
assault me.121
HO never remarried after being abandoned by her forced-married husband and
she was able to choose instead independence and self-reliance for herself and her
children. She mentioned no national policy directed to providing her support for
the social and economic consequences faced by a failed forced marriage.
121
Interview with Case Study 2, Female (April 25, 2014).
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
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For me, having a husband has no benet. I don’t want to have two
husbands… My rst husband was wrong, so I don’t want to be wrong
for a second time and I am afraid also that he might not be kind to
my children. I earned for myself and I decided to spend and give to
my children as much as I wanted, no one to control what I do or
decide. I earn and decide everything by myself and this way it is easier
for me.122
In summary, Khmer Rouge assigned marriages continued to carry impacts even
after the fall of the regime and well into the development period of the 2000s
until today, according to interviews. Some couples remained together out of love,
for the sake of children or out of a sense of duty. Other marriages were dissolved
through death, divorce or abandonment. Those marriages that did remain intact,
even for a period of time, were likely to be abusive, according to the case study
interviews (and validated by quantitative study results). For women in female-
headed households, economic and social consequences were high—but not
insurmountable due to the strength and resilience of women themselves.
Both men and women were victims of forced marriage and enforced conjugal
relations under the Khmer Rouge. Women interviewees in particular reported
how these policies, after the regime’s fall, led to shame and exclusion, with karmic
consequences for the Buddhist population. Men, in contrast, are described as not
being dened socially by their forced marriages and men appear to have been
spared from the social exclusion brought on by social stigma and discrimination
reported by women interviewees.
Disappointment is the prevailing emotional response of case study interviewees
to their forced marriages—at having lost the opportunity to exert control over a
major life decision such as marriage and to not have that life decision validated
and legitimized by family and ancestors. Wedding ceremonies are described as
“meaninglessness” due to the loss of traditional, cultural and religious rites. In
many instances, the lack of meaning extended to the marriage in total. HO, aban-
doned by her forced-married husband, shared:
122
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
At Khmer Rouge time, marriage had no meaning because we had
no pka sla, no achha, no elders acknowledging our marriage. We just
married by saying one or two words; no meaning at all… it is empty.
50 to 60 couples at the same time at the same wedding, and just saying
few words, how does that have meaning? 123
Forced marriages are described as de facto “bad marriages, only quasi-legitimate
by sheer virtue of the exclusion of parents and the absence of validation by
cultural rites. Agreeing to such marriages, therefore, presented a dilemma of
committing an act of disobedience. HO explained, “The Angkar forced me to…
and if my parents found out they would blame me because they did not know
about this marriage.124 Internalizing disappointment in the marriage and blame
for disobedience resulted in a sense of personal failure. HO continued:
I felt like, with this pdach nha [commitment or vow] no one has
acknowledged it… I felt disappointed with myself, disappointed that
I did not have a normal marriage, that my parents did not know that
I was married, my siblings did not know. I got married just by myself
among a group of strangers, so I felt disappointed… but I agreed to
marry to survive.
Many case study interviewees, both men and women, have not shared their
forced marriage experiences with others, even their own children. SBC, whose
assigned wife separated from him soon after the Khmer Rouge fall despite being
pregnant at the time, has kept his experience to himself for close to 40 years. His
words were typical of interviewee responses: “I did not tell any of my children
about the forced marriage because I did not want them to feel guilty.125 The
pressure of holding on to such “family secrets” may impact relationships between
parents and children, as well as exclude survivors from an important source of
emotional and psychological support.
The trauma of forced marriages directly impacted gender identity and valuation,
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
d. Impacts of forced marriage
123
Ibid.
124
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
125
Interview with Case Study 1, Male (April 29, 2014).
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according to many case study interviews. It seems women in particular have
carried the shame and stigma associated with forced marriages, which trans-
lated into a more general devaluation of women’s social status. PS explained the
ongoing psychological trauma she experiences as a result:
e Khmer Rouge did not value women, women as their sister, their
mother; they did not consider women as worthy in society. People
who were married at that time were treated like animals. We could
not protect our bodies [genitals], like our parents had protected our
bodies. I was raped and they stayed there to watch… We were forced
to mate like dogs and cats. When I am reminded about this, my mouth
becomes dry, my heart beats fast. Yes, [that marriage] still impacts me
now, like I am wearing the ‘torn pants’ [a sign of shame]. I rarely go to
other peoples houses. I stay mostly alone at home.126
The two guards who assisted in the rape are still alive—PS once saw them at the
local pagoda, and has since avoided this place of Buddhist devotion and prayer.
She also once met her forced-married husband, who had raped her during the
marriage, passing on the street with his new wife.
Shame and blame shifted unto (female) victims by the community is mentioned
in the majority of interviews with the women in the sample. PS described how
such shame, when internalized, resulted in self-isolation.
I feel shame, so much shame, and I do not want anyone to know
about my past. When I am selling morning glory in the market and I
see people from that time, I avoid them. I don’t want to see them and I
feel so full of shame. Sometimes someone will ask, even if I do not want
to hear it, ‘Oh where is your husband? Your husband that you married
during the Khmer Rouge, aren’t you still together?’ So now I go to
another market where people do not know me. Yes, shame. Shame
beyond what I can describe.127
126
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014).
127
Ibid.
Self-blame and isolation; loss of access to spiritual arenas, love and rituals of love;
loss of emotional support and economic opportunities are a few of the costs
paid by women due to the stigma attached to Khmer Rouge forced marriages, as
discribed
The impact of forced marriages extended to children. Spouses who remained in
abusive forced marriages speak of the intergenerational trauma of the marriage
and the ongoing abuse. HK said, “I am afraid that my daughters may marry a bad
guy [like I did], and I am afraid my sons to beat my daughters-in-law [like their
father beats me].128 Children also faced community stigma and discrimination.
PS said of her children, “Some people in the village do not want their children to
marry my children. I heard this with my own ears. 129 HO recounted:
Nowadays, do you see? I do not have anything like the others. I did
not get married like other women did and for my children, people
here always say, ‘Oh, your mother is a widow and did not have the
traditional wedding ceremony.’ Yes, the society discriminates against
me because I am a widow. Although I am now like an elder, I am not
allowed to join the traditional wedding rituals, like houb sla [eating of
a traditional fruit]. e [community] does not allow me to join, and
they call me the ‘tree with the broken branch.’ It is my children also. My
daughter and son are also not invited to be in the wedding parties, as
a bride’s maid and groom’s man, because they have no father. Even at
my own daughter’s wedding, I could not participate in the rituals; my
parents performed the duty of my daughter’s parents, and I was not
permitted to receive the pka sla. I do not want to recall this at all. I get
so upset with myself. inking about it makes it seem new. All because
I made a mistake with that marriage—we could not choose, we did not
get to know about each other in advance, we did not ask the parents
or get to know the parents [of the spouse], we did not know anything,
we could not choose. is aects both children and mother for the rest
of our lives. If Pol Pot had not forced me to marry, I could have had
a traditional wedding and my children and I would now have a good
reputation.130
2. Case study (qualitative) ndings
128
Interview with Case Study 6, Female (April 28, 2014).
129
Interview with Case Study 5, Female (April 25, 2014).
130
Interview with Case Study 4, Female (May 2, 2014).
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HO is not alone in facing such stigma and she is also not alone in overcoming
the challenges—which were faced by most of the women interviewees whose
marriages dissolved after the regime. Her story also highlighted the dramatic
shift in gender roles due to the high prevalence of female-headed households, to
which dissolved forced marriages certainly contributed. HO explained:
I tried so hard to raise [my children] and to send them to school.
And all of them nished high school and my sons now continue their
studies in Phnom Penh. I tried so hard, very hard. I have my old
bicycle and I went from place to place to collect herbs and then sold
them in the markets in Phnom Penh. I earned enough money to send
my children to school this way. Yes, I look at my children and I see
other children have their fathers to raise them and it is much easier
that way. But some widows were not able to support their children, so
I am also proud of myself. Now even the villagers admire me. ‘Oh, you
are a widow, but your children are good children, follow the advice
of their mother and have good jobs.’ So I see that my eorts were not
useless.131
Whether forcibly married couples stayed together or dissolved, forced marriages
had far-reaching consequences on many survivors’ identity and self-worth, social
status and nancial stability. Women interviewees frequently described trauma,
shame and stigma, which often extended to the next generation. As women’s
status was customarily equated with a harmonious marriage and family life,
women described carrying the brunt of the adverse social consequences of the
Khmer Rouge policy, according to the sample. As a consequence of dissolved
forced marriages, gender roles were dramatically realigned, with women taking
on dual roles of provider and caregiver. Yet, even as forced marriage victims were
socially excluded and discriminated against—according to case studies, in reli-
gious ceremonies, in economic marketplaces, and in community networks—
some women have been able to emerge as independent decision-makers,
opening new space for calculating women’s prosperity and success, in this life and
the next, via more expansive and empowering criteria.
131
Ibid.
V
DISCUSSION
& RECOMMENDATIONS
IV RESULTS
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The analysis below considers the qualitative and quantitative ndings, presented
in Section 4, in relation to each other and in the context of the established
research outlined in Section 2.
The most signicant nding resulting from the study is that, as a pervasively insti-
tuted policy of the Khmer Rouge state, forced marriages and enforced conjugal
relations stripped people of the fundamental right to choice and consent. In
doing so, it perpetuated a culture of rape and abuse, especially for women, by
which sexualized gender-based violence, particularly in marriage and for punish-
ment, was normalized via state policy and with impunity. The impacts of these
violations continue to be felt by victims until today.
Other signicant ndings based on the research are listed below.
Marriages before the Khmer Rouge regime
Traditional marriages in Cambodia were most often arranged, by consent,
by parents for their children. For men, who initiated the proposal, choice was
provided; both men and women were customarily asked to consent to the
match before the wedding took place. While half of respondents married before
the Khmer Rouge reported that their traditionally arranged marriage was not
their choice, none of these marriages were described in the sample as coercive,
even when family pressure exerted great inuence.
Traditional Khmer weddings were a means to validate and legitimize the union
in the eyes of the community, the family, and, for the largely Buddhist popula-
tion, in the ancestral realm. Traditionally, weddings and marriages were also a
way to demonstrate the respect and obedience of children to parents, and both
a marriage and the wedding event itself held spiritual meaning. For Buddhists,
this included karmic consequences related to past and future lives.
Forced Marriages during the Khmer Rouge regime
The widespread and systematic state practice of forced marriage and enforced
conjugal relations as described by the respondents, coupled with the severe
impact on the physical and mental well-being of victims, constitutes a crime
against humanity.
According to case study interviews, “forced marriage” is understood by
respondents to represent at least three distinct oenses: the loss of choice and
consent; the loss of the traditional wedding ceremony with family and ancestral
spirit participation; and enforced conjugal relations, which lasted the duration
of the regime.
The wedding procedures of the Khmer Rouge were a radical departure from
traditional consensually arranged marriages and weddings. Angkar took over
the role of parent for the population. Angkar assigned spouses and Khmer
Rouge cadre violently enforced participation in wedding procedures and
conjugal relations, often between virtual strangers. Parental participation and
ancestral rites were excluded, resulting in karmic consequences.
Resistance to forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations was common.
The majority of respondents (70.2%) refused requests to marry at least once,
but in the end virtually all (97.2%) were forced to marry, and virtually all (97.0%)
reported the marriage was not their choice.
Penalties for refusing to marry or to participate in enforced conjugal relations
included verbal threats and actual physical punishment, such as beatings, rape,
sexual slavery, and death.
Mass forced marriage procedures (involving three to hundreds of couples) were
organized, systematic and widespread, as described by case study respondents.
The case study interviews indicate that many men had opportunity to request
a spouse during the regime, this being reported by half of all responses. The
other half of matches was described as arbitrarily assigned.
1. KEY FINDINGS
V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Key ndings
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Nearly half (46.5%) of all survey respondents reported knowing each other
or about each other at the time of the wedding procedure and case studies
suggest that this may have been only indirectly or through social and kinship
networks. The availability of such networks may have provided “old” people an
advantage over “new” people, with preferential treatment of the former also
reported in case studies in terms of the wedding procedure itself.
Strategic survival choices were common during the Khmer Rouge regime,
including complying with the forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations
out of fear of punishment or death. These choices had traumatic material and
psychological consequences for women in particular due to proscribed cultural
codes of conduct and subordinate gender status.
Forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations are forms of sexualized
gender-based violence. As such, the system of marriage under the Khmer
Rouge was described as fitting a state-enforced culture of rape—rape was
normalized and perpetrated with impunity, especially within marriage and for
punishment. Types of rapes described included marital rape, gang rape, sexual
slavery, and rape assisted by or perpetrated by state actors.
Khmer Rouge forced marriages may have been unique in compelling husbands
to rape their wives as a means of securing their own survival. One case study
describes Khmer Rouge cadre aiding and abetting the rape of a wife by her
assigned husband.
Nearly one-quarter (24.5%) of all forced marriages are reported to have
involved spousal abuse. Those marriages existed during the other extreme
hardships of the atrocity, lasted beyond the regime, and some remain intact
today.
A great majority of all forced marriages (76.2%) are reported to have resulted
in the birth of children, with nearly half of respondents (44.9%) having four or
more children. Husbands are sometimes mentioned as providing vital survival
support during a wife’s pregnancy.
Case studies suggest a spike in forced marriage in the second half of 1978.
Case studies point to reproduction of the population as motivation for forced
marriages. Significantly, one case study respondent mentioned the political
ambition of local Khmer Rouge leaders as motivations for forced marriages and
enforced conjugal relations, suggesting higher-level leaders knew about and
incentivized implementation of the policy.
Marriages after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime
Following the fall of the regime, no generalized national policy existed to
address the status and consequences of forced marriages. Yet, marriages forced
by the Khmer Rouge had a dramatic impact on marriage practices immediately
after the regime’s fall and decades following.
The research suggests that forced marriage was one of the contributing factors
to increased domestic abuse (in a context of continued civil conict and mobi-
lization of husbands) and high rates of desertion, polygamy, remarriage, and
female-headed households following the fall of the regime.
More than one-half of all respondents (53.1%) stayed in their forced marriages
after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, largely motivated by children born
in the marriage, as described in case studies. Other motivations to stay in the
marriage included pity, trans-generational karmic consequences, the impor-
tance of shared traumatic experiences during the regime, and, after all, love.
Some intact forced marriages remained together due to abuse, with a spouse
unable to escape.
Many of the forced marriages that remained intact are reported as dysfunc-
tional, with more than half (52.9%) in the survey sample reporting spousal
abuse—one, as discussed in the case study analysis, is experiencing continued
spousal rape until today.
The majority (70.0%) of those who dissolved their forced marriage after the
regime eventually remarried. Among those who did not remarry after the
regime, 72.2% reported they did not want to marry again due to their forced
marriage experience. While responses included both men and women respond-
ents, the nding is signicant when compared to the near-universal marriage
of women prior to the Khmer Rouge regime as described by previous research.
V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Key ndings
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Impact of Khmer Rouge forced marriages
The Khmer Rouge system of forced marriages resulted in social exclusion and
discrimination, especially for women who were abandoned, divorced, in a
polygamous marriage, or simply widowed. These impacts, case studies suggest,
carried intergenerational impacts and have resulted in economic hardship in
many cases.
The majority of all respondents (70.2%) reported ongoing mental health prob-
lems due to the forced marriage, reporting distress and anger at being forced
to marry. Additionally, more than one-third (35.4%) reported adverse economic
consequences due to the forced marriage.
While the majority of respondents reported not hiding their forced marriage
from others, case studies illuminate the internalized disappointment
and shame many victims carry as a result of the assigned match. Parents in
particular reported in case studies difficulty in sharing the truth about the
forced marriage with children born out of the union. Of those who have not
shared their forced marriage experience with others, more than half (52.6%)
reported feelings of shame, while more than one-third (36.8%) reported fear of
stigma and discrimination.
Forced marriages after the fall of the regime contributed to radical shifts in
gender roles and responsibilities. Women in female-headed-households, in
particular, took on added burdens even while negotiating social and economic
hardship, the raising of children, and the care for elders.
The ndings of the research demonstrate that victims are still in need of long-
term support and social services. The commitment of donors and the interna-
tional community remains a vital need for programmatic and research-based
projects in support of non-government organizations and service providers.
Despite the tragedy of forced marriage, many individuals have managed to
successfully reconstitute their lives, often with support from families and
through self-reliance. This nding particularly points to the resiliency of Cambo-
dian women and the need to reassess restrictive gender roles and cultural
stereotypes that continue to hold sway.
Marriage is a functional institution: it changes status, roles, rights and respon-
sibilities as informed by cultural practices and gender identity assignments.
Forced marriages as instituted by the Khmer Rouge regime represent sexualized
gender-based violence with far-reaching impacts. The Khmer Rouge policy is
a crime against humanity for the ECCC to take up for prosecution and through
adequate and eective reparations. Additionally, forced marriage is a develop-
ment dilemma for the Cambodian government, as abusive forced marriages
continue intact; as widows and female-headed households resulting from forced
marriages are aging without adequate safety networks; and as children born
out of forced marriages experience intergenerational trauma and other adverse
socio-economic consequences.
Institute redress and reparations for victims of forced marriage, including
monetary compensation and psychosocial and other support services for survi-
vors of Khmer Rouge forced marriage, in line with the UN Basic Principles and
Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Viola-
tion of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International
Humanitarian Law as well as the Nairobi Declaration on the Women and Girl’s
Right to a Remedy and Reparation.
Document progress in upcoming Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and other human rights treaty
reporting on advancing Cambodian women’s status and gender equality,
particularly in terms of combatting restrictive cultural gender stereotypes and
in implementing reparations, as called for in the 2013 CEDAW Committee’s
Concluding Observations.
Commit to non-repetition of gender-based crimes in times of conflict and
post-conict by developing a National Acton Plan on Women, Peace and Secu-
rity in line with UN SCR 1325 and its sister resolutions and as called for in the
CEDAW 2013 Concluding Observations.
Integrate forced marriages as an area of focus in development plans, including
the National Action Plan on Women’s Advancement (NAPWA) and the National
Action Plan on Violence against Women (NAPVAW). Stress psychosocial and
economic support for this aging group of victims and their children.
2. RECOMMENDATIONS
a. Royal Government of Cambodia
V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS
2. Recommendations
109108
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
In both reparation programs and on-going development strategies:
Enhance psychological and social support services and build provider capacity
by integrating gender-based violence and forced marriage under the Khmer
Rouge into the education of doctors, psychologists, social workers and lawyers.
Facilitate hospital and health center employment of psychologists, trauma
counselors and social workers to provide individual, group and family therapy
to victims of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge and their families.
Provide legal and other support services to as many victims as possible, in
particular to women, who desire to end their forced marriages but face obsta-
cles in doing so, such as intimate partner violence, economic dependency, pres-
sure from family or some other cause.
Use mass media eectively to raise awareness about forced marriage under the
Khmer Rouge regime, the human right of both women and men to consensual
marriage and sex, and the benets of healthy and equitable relationships.
To the Trial Chamber, ensure the full nature, implementation and extent of
forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge will be discussed thoroughly in Case
002-02 of the ECCC as stated in the judgment in Case 002-01.
To the Oce of the Co-Investigating Judges, investigate these crimes to the full
extent for prosecution as warranted in Case 003 and Case 004.
To the Lead Co-Lawyers for Civil Parties and the Victims Support Section, in
partnership with civil society and victim representatives, develop comprehen-
sive and meaningful reparation projects to address the full scope of material,
psycho-social and other adverse impacts of the crime of forced marriage and
enforced conjugal relations. Prioritize programs and initiatives aimed at the
children of these marriages.
For all sections of the Court, integrate into their legacy plans a priority focus on
transferring best practices for addressing sexual and gender-based violence
in Cambodia’s national justice system as a means of realizing non-repetition
through the transformation of cultural practices that perpetuate and normalize
gender-inequality and gender-based violence.
To the Victims Support Section, in partnership with civil society actors and
victim representatives, develop non-judicial measures that seek to empower
survivors and acknowledge their experiences of forced marriages and enforced
conjugal relations. Projects should be designed in consultation with survi-
vors themselves and serve as a means of raising awareness of gender-based
violence at local and national levels.
To the Public Aairs branch of the Court, provide information to the public on
how the Court is responding to the gender-based crimes of the Khmer Rouge
generally, and forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations in particular.
Include a clear and concise explanation of the gender-based crimes prosecuted
at the Court, as well details of those crimes that are not being prosecuted and
the reasons, legal and otherwise, why this is the case. Such information sharing
will go far in diminishing public perceptions of impunity for these crimes, espe-
cially among the survivors of gender-based violence under the Khmer Rouge,
and it will set an important example for how present-day gender-based in
Cambodia should be addressed by courts, government and policymakers.
b. Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS
2. Recommendations
111110
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Encourage the preservation and dissemination of knowledge about forced
marriage and its impacts as fully integrated into the national historical
discourse of the Khmer Rouge atrocity. Include youth in such eorts, especially
in documenting first-hand accounts and in leading community dialogue on
universal human rights and gender equality in times of peace and in conict.
Acknowledge and accommodate the unique challenges of survivors of forced
marriage and conjugal relations—domestic abuse, economic deprivation, and
social exclusion—in providing services and protection for victims of gender-
based violence.
Empower victims by establishing community-based self-help groups for survi-
vors of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge to support survivors dealing
with the psychological and social impacts of this crime. Build the capacities
of survivors of forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations so they can
identify and advocate for their own interests in Cambodia’s transitional justice
process.
Raise awareness in communities of the need to end victim blaming for gender-
based violence, including forced marriage, to reform cultural practices that
restrict freedom of self-determination and gender equality, and to strengthen
recognition of women’s contributions to stable families and societies.
Further research the impact and variances of forced marriage, including by
providing a greater focus on men’s experiences of these crimes and subsequent
disruptions of gender roles and identities, masculinities and male trauma.
c. Non-Governmental Organizations and Practitioners
VI
DEDICATION
& ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
V DISCUSSION & RECOMMENDATIONS
113112
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Respondents
This report is dedicated to the 106 women and men who participated in the
research, sharing painful stories of trauma and loss, as well as story of incredible
resilience and human dignity. Their courage contribute to a better understanding
of the Khmer Rouge policy of forced marriage and enforced conjugal relations,
important for the historical record of the Cambodian atrocity as well as to interna-
tional eorts to end gender-based violence in conict globally.
Authors
Theresa de Langis, PhD, senior specialist on women’s human rights in conict and
transitioning scenarios, is rst author of the report. Co-authors are Judith Strasser,
PhD, International Advisor to the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO),
Thida Kim, Technical Assistant to the Gender-Based Violence Project of TPO, and
Taing Sopheap, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for TPO.
Research Team
Judith Strasser, PhD, International Advisor to the Transcultural Psychosocial
Organization (TPO) served as the lead researcher for the quantitative portions of
the study, including survey design and data analysis of results. Taing Sopheap,
Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for TPO, oversaw the data
collection and preparation for quantitative results. Theresa de Langis served as
the lead researcher for the qualitative portion of the study. Thida Kim, Technical
Assistant to the Gender-Based Violence Project of TPO, conducted the case study
interviews and provided translation from Khmer to English for analysis. She also
oversaw the considerable logistics and necessary support to respondents for
travel to Phnom Penh to participate in the research. Gratitude is owed to the
researchers at the Center for Advanced Studies for administering the quantitative
survey. Thanks also to Sok Leang of Context Translation Services for translating
the report from English to Khmer.
Partners and Advisors
Gratitude is extended to the Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP), in particular
Charya Heng, for assisting in the selection of respondents among CDP clients.
Beini Ye, Senior Advisor to CDP’s Gender-Based Violence Project, provided inval-
uable inputs into the survey design, and (in her later role as Post-Conict Legal
Advisor to REDRESS) her contributions greatly improved the recommendations
VI DEDICATION & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
included in the report. Gratitude is also owed to Rochelle Braaf, an Australian
Volunteer for International Development seconded to CDP since 2013, for her
inputs into the survey design and nal proofreading of the report.
Cover
Deep appreciation is extended to Chath pierSath for permission to reproduce on
the cover of the report, A Page of an Art Book (2013), collage and hand-colored
stamp on paper. Mr. pierSath, a Cambodian artist and poet presently living in the
U.S., writes of the painting used for the cover:
A Page in an Art Book looks at howAngkartook over the role of
parent and made a mockery of marriage by creating a reproductive
machine instead. e two carved blocks, one man and one woman, are
reproduced as stamps, overlapping each other, obstructively, denoting
how that impersonal arrangement made the self invisible. A sense of
identity is further blurred into the darkness of their black clothing. Yes,
the gures are part of each other, part of the same brutal history, but in
losing identity they also face an inability to sort what is right or wrong
in the arrangement they are facing.
Donor Support
The research project would not have been possible without funding through the
Civil Peace Service of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
(GIZ). Our special thanks are extended to GIZ for recognizing the need to docu-
ment the experience of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Design
Melon Rouge in Phnom Penh provided the cover illustration and design of the
report.
VI DEDICATION & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Dedication & acknowledgments
115114
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
Achha Religious layperson who determines the auspicious date for a
wedding and ociates over the ceremony
Angkar Literally, the Organization, referring to the highest decision-
making body of the Khmer Rouge regime
Chhlob Local militia who often served as Khmer Rouge spy
Chpab Srey Code of conduct for women’s proper behavior codied in a
traditional Khmer poem
Houb sla Areca palm fruit eaten as part of a traditional wedding
ceremony
Khmang Literally, enemy, referring to those who did not follow Angkar
Krama Traditional Cambodian scarf
Me ba Go-between for a groom and bride during marriage
arrangements
Mith Comrade
Mith bong Older comrade
Mith bprapouan Comrade wife
Mith p’dai Comrade husband
New people Those forced to evacuate urban centers into the countryside,
sometimes called “April 17” people
Num Dessert served as part of a traditional wedding ceremony
Old people Those who lived in the countryside or in areas controlled by
the Khmer Rouge before the fall of Phnom Penh; sometimes
called “base” people or “full rights” people
Pdach nha Commitment, vow (as in, to be married)
Pka sla Flower presented to parents by child during traditional
wedding ceremony
Re-education Term used by Khmer Rouge to indicate indoctrination to
the rules of Angkar, often involving some form of verbal
reprimand or physical punishment
Riep kaa Traditional wedding ceremony, marriage
GLOSSARY
Glossary
1 SURVEY (QUANTITATIVE) FINDINGS
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A Study on the Impact of Forced Marriage under the Khmer Rouge Regime
... Many studies revealed that forced marriage resulted in gendered impacts and had dramatic social, economic and cultural consequences on women and their children. The victims of SGBV under the KR suffer trauma, discrimination, violence and stereotyping afterward (Ye 2014, 4;Natale 2011, 1-2;Nakagawa 2008;Strasser et al. 2015;De Langis et al. 2014). According to a study on victim participation at the ECCC and gender-based violence under the KR, which interviewed 222 KR survivors, 51% of respondents reported that the sexual and gender-based violence that they experienced under the KR affected their psychological well-being (Strasser et al., 2015, 17). ...
... In her work on forced marriage under the KR, Irvin-Erickson (2018) concludes that forced marriage has social and physical consequences that still affect the lives of Cambodians four decades after the collapse of the KR, representing a continuation of the legacy of genocide and mass atrocities long after the end of KR. Strasser et al. (2015) and De Langis et al. (2014) also suggest that there are still significant needs related to SGBV under the KR that need to be addressed today through policy and legal frameworks and more holistic approaches, including policy, cultural and attitude changes in order to tackle mental and physical damage. They argue that victims of SGBV under the KR need more holistic support from the relevant institutions, especially the government and ECCC, such as improving psychosocial services, providing affordable legal services, strengthening the reporting system related to SGBV and using media to raise awareness of the general public to guarantee the nonrepetition of SGBV against women (Strasser et al. 2015, 19-20;De Langis et al. 2014, 18). ...
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Four decades after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian women continue to suffer from discriminatory social, cultural and economic norms and to experience gender injustice in social and political spheres. Against this background, this paper asks whether and to what extent transitional justice has contributed to providing guarantees of non-recurrence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women in Cambodia. This paper examines how the transitional justice process addressed SGBV committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. It shows that transitional justice has not adequately recognized SGBV against women under the Khmer Rouge, that there has been lack of representation of women in the process and that an unfair redistribution of resources after the Khmer Rouge contributed to further discrimination. Drawing from the concept of guarantees of non-recurrence and feminist scholarship on gender justice, this paper highlights how a lack of gender-transformative policy and the government’s lack of capacity to comply with international legal standards has shaped women’s experiences after the Khmer Rouge. It argues that, in order to guarantee the non-repetition of SGBV against women, transitional justice initiatives should aim to address social and cultural injustice effectively; to subvert patriarchal and oppressive norms; and to promote women’s participation in social, economic and political development in Cambodia. It concludes with policy recommendations.
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The Khmer Rouge’s crimes of forced marriage and sexual violence have been commemorated in a dance production, entitled Pka Sla Krom Angkar. It is one of several artworks that were recognised in 2018 as “reparations” by the United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal, known officially as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). In this article, researchers from Australia and Cambodia reflect on the production’s significance from multiple perspectives. It is a catalyst for discussing human rights; a tool for promoting psychological healing; and a part of the ECCC’s legal process.
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