UN victims’ rights advocate Jane Frances Connors praises the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) for its work to protect the rights of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.

She commended the committee during her meeting with CHRC vice-president Long Sonita, held on October 30 to enhance cooperation in the prevention of, and response to, sexual exploitation and abuse. The two institutions also sought to strengthen their partnership on the protection of victims’ rights, according to a CHRC press release.

Sonita acknowledged that the sexual harassment could happen to anyone, and thus demands understanding by all.

She explained that the CHRC has a number of mechanisms in place to promote and protect the rights of victims and survivors. They include regular reports and record-keeping, the resolution of complaints received – whether in person or through social media or the CHRC app – close monitoring of the human rights situation in prisons, and educational outreach programmes.

“We have a team of volunteer lawyers who provide legal advice and defend cases for the impoverished, free of charge,” she added.

Connors expressed her appreciation for the measures the committee has implemented thus far. She emphasised the importance of protecting the survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse and ensuring their voices are heard. She also wishes to see the Cambodian body further strengthen its mechanisms.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, said on October 31 that supporting the victims of sexual abuse is of vital importance.

He added that the CHRC and the government has a diverse range of mechanisms in place, including direct investigations and an online complaints system, but noted that they have not yet appeared to be effective.

“From our experience, many victims of sexual abuse have not been able to find justice for themselves. Some known perpetrators have escaped, some cases have been illegally mediated, and others have not been comprehensively dealt with by the courts. It would appear that the protection of women and girls from sexual abuse remains limited,” he said.

He explained that a key factor to protecting the rights of the survivors of sexual or other abuse is the proper application of the law by police officers and the judiciary. This would ensure their rights are respected, and perpetrators are punished.