Forced Marriages in Cambodia Paper Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1898 Words
Date:  2022-10-19

The Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) gained prominence at around 1955 after its establishment in 1951. In 1975, it was led by Pol Pot, a despot who was foresaw many atrocities to both his people and foreigners. After a period of mass civilian killing, the Vietnamese forces deposed the regime in 1979, and the party was dissolved in 1981.

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Angkar meant "the organization" and was a common name that CPK leaders used to refer to themselves. Cambodia hosted more than 3 million refugees who hailed from Cambodia's war-torn neighboring countries (De Walque, 2006). The CPK's military was known as Khmer Rouge and executed any orders given to them without question. Angkar was unsympathetic to refugees and considered them as traitors of their mother nations. As a result, they were always treated as foreigners regardless of the time that they had stayed in Cambodia. The people lived in small villages based in rural areas as were designed by Khmer Rouge. The regime was extremely vigilant in keeping track of people's movements. All families were recorded, and members would notify authority whenever they were about to leave their families or villages.

The Krom was the smallest group in the Angkar's style of leadership control. It involved nuclear families, about 15 in the number who were managed by a committee of three. The members were all selected by CPK and were directly answerable for the conduct of their units. The family unit was used to control the people and assign them into labor divisions in the rice farms managed by the regime. The refugees were named "new people" (Coomes et al., 2018). Although they too had family units similar to those of the "new people," they were abused and used as slave laborers. Angkar had succeeded in reorganizing the family structure and doing away with the smaller units comprising about 4 people and replacing it with a more superior unit of more people(15 families) that was easier to manage and utilize on the labor front. The "new people" were forced to work in the harsh climatic areas often infested with the yellow fever disease. Highland areas with cool and wet climate were set aside for the "old people" who the regime considered their native relatives while the swampy and arid areas were left to be tilled by the "new people" (De Walque, 2006).

The Cambodia Labor Law was enacted in 1977 and is implemented by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation (Brookes, 2018). The Angkar regime disregarded all rights of their laborers and compensation was only in the form of rice rations and favors in some instances. The Labor Law prohibits any kind of forced labor. It defines forced labor as forcing any person to work contrary to their will. It also provides for the compensation of all laborers for their work according to an employment contract designed by the employer and agreed upon by the employees. The law has seen various amendments, the most recent being from July 11, 2018. The Labor Law was amended to introduce "indemnity for dismissal." The clause holds that employers must provide a severance payment to any employees whose job contracts are terminated. The law seeks to formalize the employment sector in Cambodia and champion for the rights of all laborers unlike the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979.

Cambodians before the Khmer rule believed that Buddha planned their marriages. They were a religious nation and arranged marriages were the norm. Because of the religious inclination, parents and other relatives would find marriage partners for their children and lead them to a matrimonious unison (Cong, 2016). The arranged marriages disregarded the position of love and romance in civilized societies and marriage partners stayed together just to appease their parents and the community. The arranged marriages led to the decline of the family unit and most families were nuclear with one or two kids. The partners were not as intimate as in a naturally selected love live as is the norm in contemporary societies. The arranged marriages led to slow growth of the population in Cambodia and by 1975, Cambodia had a population of only 8 million.

Arranged marriages are the root of the forced marriages amongst other immoral behaviors. Arranged married involved strategic alliances between family units that felt that they had a shared objective (Cong, 2016). Families that were well off married into families that were also well off leading to the division of the society into two broad economic groups. The arranged marriages led to impunity and vices such as adultery and prostitution since they were not founded on a romantic relationship. Married women and men would continuously get involved in acts of prostitution to satisfy their sexual desires. Bastard children become a norm in historical Cambodia who grew to e criminals. Women have borne the brunt of arranged marriages since they were regarded as inferior in historical Cambodia. It was uncommon for a woman to refuse to marry the match selected by her parents since the whole society would consider her of deviant behavior and unfit for the marriage institution. However, men would occasionally have a say in the partners that they married although the final decision was held by their parents.

Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, was a utopian thinker. He believed that a large population was ideal for the provision of labor and subsequent large-scale operation on all fronts of civilization (Coomes et al., 2018). A large population would ensure him more soldiers, more employees, more spies, more slaves among others. The regime introduced forced marriages where strangers were forced to unite and live as a family with the sole purpose of procreating, growing the birth rate and consequently Cambodia's population. Testimonies in the modern world prove that the number of forced marriages in Cambodia during the Khmer rule was to the tune of several thousand.

Forced marriages were a form of domestic violence perpetrated by the treacherous Khmer regime in 1795-1979. The Civil Party collected witness statements that confirmed the scale of forced marriages in historical Cambodia. The regime organized grand marriage ceremonies, which involved three to more than 160 unisons (Cong, 2016). The couples were only notified of impending forced marriages days to the ceremonies and refusing to marry the chosen partner as tantamount to treason. The Khmer Cadre had the privilege of selecting wives to marry. The military personnel were held dear by Pol Pot and allowed freedom of choice with regard to women that they wanted to marry. Furthermore, the marriage partners were in most cases total strangers until the ceremony day when the Angkar's Cadre would match males to females and command them to start families.

The statements collected by the Civil Party further state that the forced couples were forced to consummate. After the ceremony, the couples would spend a night together under the watch of the Khmer military personnel to ensure abidance to the ruler's command of procreation (Braaf, 2014). The fear of imprisonment and torture led many couples to have sexual relations where most led to pregnancies unwillingly. According to a thesis by Peg Levin that involved 192 respondents, instances of rape were common and accepted in the Cambodian society during the Khmer regime. 76 of the respondents confirmed that sex was considered as a prescription from Angkar and the Khmer Cadre would even assist men to rape their uncooperative wives. The age for spouse selection was set at 15-35 years. Young girls were often married to old men and young boys married to older women with the intent of fertilizing them and bearing children. The forced marriages thus affected all social groups in historical Cambodia, and all villages could relate. Divorces were common, but the regime would immediately match the divorced couple to other intimate partners causing the rise of polygamous marriages and a unique breed of extended families.

Kasumi Nakagawa was an expert researcher on the Khmer Rouge regime. The Civil Party questioned her with the view of discussing her research and subsequently shedding light on the effects of forced marriages in Cambodia during the Angkar rule (Kijewski, 2016). Marie Guiraud, a lawyer at the International Civil Party, led the questioning of Ms. Nakagawa. When asked about the rapes, Ms. Nakagawa stated that her research had eschewed the matter although it inevitably uncovered some insightful findings. The Khmer Rouge hired spies to check on the forcefully married couples continually. If the couples were not intimate in consummating, the spies would report to the leaders who would instruct soldiers to rape and punish the couple.

Rape led to many psychological effects that hitherto haunt the victims. Not only did it go against the natural human drive in matters of sex, but it also took away dignity from thousands of men and women who were victims of the same. The psychological turmoil cut across all groups of the population. The parents had to witness their children being abused and forced to consummate as uncivilized puppet mammals under the ultimate control of the Khmer Rouge (Braaf, 2014). The couples were not happy to have children as is the natural case with childbearing. They considered the children as rewards for the leader to further his atrocious rule. Some children face difficulties integrating into modern societies due to the erosion of dignity right from birth. Isolation and cases of social stigma are common in victims of the Khmer Rouge rule.

The human mind is brilliant and records all events right from birth to death. Traumatic events that cause shifts in worldviews are recorded and stored and recollected later. As a result, most victims of the Khmer atrocities face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in modern societies. The disorder is founded on the fact that survivors of traumatic events have their behaviors and views of the world changed and faced difficulties living normal lives (Stammel et al., 2013). For instance, soldiers from the Second World War faced the infamous Veterans PTSD due to the events of the wartime. They remembered how they slayed enemy soldiers without second thoughts, how they watched, colleagues die in their hands while maintaining the drive and mission to fight to the tooth and win the war for their great country.

Similarly, survivors of the Khmer Rouge face traumas and challenge social paradigms that they blame for the ordeals. The leadership institution failed to consider their rights and freedoms and respect them for their ancestral land. As a result, a common long-lasting effect is a dislike to leadership and difficulties in following orders. The soldiers from the Khmer Cadre who are integrated into modern societies are often depressed, and with introvert antics since for a period in their lives, they went against communities, brothers and sisters all in dump following of commands in a top-down despotic regime (Jarvis, 2015). Families that lost some of their members face stresses in contemporary societies and have to undergo regular psychological sessions to manage stress and rid negativities such as suicidal thoughts.


The Angkar indeed succeeded in reforming the family unit into a larger group that it could utilize in labor. The Khmer Rouge regime was funded on command and control and any defectors from the regime would be punished or executed. Slave labor was common to both the Cambodia natives and refugees from neighboring countries. Arranged marriages that were the norm led to the deterioration of the social institution and subsequently led to forced marriages. The atrocities of the Khmer Rouge rulers have far-reaching effects evident in contemporary societies. Survivors have to tackle depression, stress, PT...

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