From the Cambodian Ministry of Women's affairs website (at http://www.mwva.gov.kh/about_mwva.htm) here is a brief overview of conditions for women in Cambodia:
Two decades of war and civil strife have placed extraordinary strains on the status of women in the country. Cambodian society is marked by a hierarchical order, with notions of power and status conditioning social and gender relations. In this social order, women are considered to be of a lower status relative to men. However, gender relations in Cambodia are undergoing tremendous change, with new opportunities opening up as a result of economic, social and political developments. As Cambodian women pursue these opportunities, they are becoming a more integral part of Cambodia's overall development.
This summer I will be primarily working on domestic violence laws for the country. The website describes the domestic violence situation in greater detail:
Cambodia is a sending, receiving and transit country for trafficking of women and children. An estimated 100,000 women and children are being overview of the trafficked in Cambodia at any given time, with 47% of commercial sex workers stating they were trafficked. Approximately 800 women and children are trafficked into Thailand each month and 400 are deported back by the Thai authorities. Other young girls turn to the sex industry as they have few viable alternatives. Poverty, social upheaval, underdeveloped legal instruments and weak law enforcement are all contributing to the rapid growth of the sex industry.
Domestic violence continues to represent a threat for Cambodian women. Violence against women in the family is a serious problem experienced by a significant number of women. While it is difficult to determine the actual incidence of domestic violence, some indicators suggest that the number of cases is increasing, and an estimated one in four women experience violence in the home.
It is now assumed by social scientists, that unequal access to wealth and goods, frustration due to economic competition, pressure to earn higher income, and work-induced migration are contributing factors to domestic violence. Rampant poverty, cash economy, limited availability of jobs and rises in the price of basic goods and services, act as additional burdens for the already challenged familial and social structures. The involvement of women as primary earners and their increased participation in the labour force, although not necessarily changing their social status, alters the perception of gender roles and increases frustration in male partners.
Soooo...it's going to be a very interesting summer. I'm super excited about getting to go back to Cambodia, and I'm also really looking forward to working with a different legal system that draws heavily from the international system. In particular, it should be interesting to see how some of the broader theories and practices that are generally considered "western," are adapted (or not) to meet the needs of the Cambodian culture. Can't wait! Now, if only I could magically be done with finals!