In her new book GOOD BOOTY: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (out now from Dey Street Books), the accla...
mercoledì 23 settembre 2015
Gang Rape in Cambodia
Cambodian sex workers
Gang rape is known as ‘bauk’ in Cambodia, and is increasing in popularity. The government of course, won’t take responsibility for this and blames the Western world. “Rape itself is very often happening in Cambodia due to the influence of the Western culture with the illegal entry or import of pornography film,” says You Ay, from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
A famous proverb in Cambodia is “Men are gold and women are cloth. The former is easily cleaned; the latter easily stained.” Females in Cambodia are seen as objects, and thus are often treated like objects. The only way to stop this ‘bauk’ trend is to change the attitude towards women. But is this even possible?
Mao, 18, is from Pursat, a small village with a few hundred families.
“There was a wedding in Pursat, and I went to participate,” she says. “At the wedding this man asked me to dance and I went to dance with him.”
The man then said he had a friend with a question for her, and he led her from the wedding to a field nearby.
“When he dragged me out, there was his two friends with him and three more were waiting in the fields,” Mao says.
Two of the men raped her before others were alerted by her screams. Eight days later, she told her story from a safe house.
The Phnom Penh Post reports there’s a Khmer saying “Kbal nak na, saok nak noeng (Anyone’s head, anyone’s hair)”, meaning: “If it’s your problem, you must deal with it by yourself. I shouldn’t be involved.”
In January last year, gang of five people murdered two lovers they spotted in a field after raping one of them.
Vorn Chinh, who confessed she kept watch for the group during the rape and murder, admitted in court that, after leaving a construction site, they spotted a couple making love in a rice field, illuminated by the headlamp of a motorbike, and descended on them.
“The two perpetrators [Chea Vandy and Touch Sothea] killed the woman and stole the moto after raping her, while myself and Chhouy Mao were the street-watchers,” she told the court.
The crime took place in Phnom Penh Thmey commune’s Damnak Thom village, in Sen Sok district, on January 23 this year.
Ringleaders Chea Vandy and Touch Sothea repeatedly beat the male victim with a baton until he died, before gang-raping his girlfriend, Vorn Chinh said.
Gang rape is also common amongst sex workers. Men often find it cheaper to hire a girl for a night and gather a few of them to ‘have turns’ with her.
Sokuntia is twenty-four and comes from Kompong Cham. She lives barely a stone’s throw from the Independence Monument where she works as a street prostitute every night.
“I have worked as a taxi girl since I was 17 years old. I have been gang-raped seven or eight times.”
Sokuntia shares an empty room in a dilapidated wooden shack, which stands in a muddy, dirty alley behind a housing estate that has survived several wars. She lives with her friend Vin and a baby. Sitting on her verandah, overlooking other shacks and muddy alleys, she tells me, “I was raped two weeks ago, in a boy’s house here in town. After two guys had plussed me, they held me down while another plussed me. They were holding my hands and legs while one man was doing it to me. I told the man I agreed to plus with five people, so they wouldn’t hurt me. The man said, ‘This is my house, I do what I want to do. You are lucky if I don’t burn your clothes.’ I was very scared and am very happy they did not kill me. They paid me $6.”
By 7pm every night, Sokuntia has installed herself next to several hundred other taxi girls on the grassy promenade east of the Independence Monument and scans the curb-crawlers.
“Sometimes I know the guys who do this and I turn them down. This is why I often have no customers. Sometimes the boys look very nice and handsome and make me believe everything is ok, but in the end they take me to a field or a school and rape me anyway. I have no money and no education. Poor people are not afraid to die.”
A self confessed gang rapist told his story to a journalist in a shocking article in 2003, just three years after ‘bauk’ became popular.
“I like to go to the disco. Because I am rich and good looking, I can usually pull a girl and take her to a hotel that my friends have booked. Sometimes I don’t have to pay money. If I can’t find a good girl, then I will try and find a taxi girl and take her. I don’t have much money so we all chip together, 8 – 10$. My friends wait for me somewhere and then I give them a signal on the mobile phone and then, when I bring the girl, it means Plus.”
Nhun describes a supposedly typical Bauk evening with his friends. “In the hotel, we rent two rooms. We put the girl in one room with one boy. When the boy is finished, the next one comes in. The girl never actually knows how many boys there are. The girls are all afraid. But they cannot escape.”
Samnang, a professor at a local university, is in his mid-thirties. Because of his public profile, he worries about being photographed and initially denies that he has ever been involved in Bauk, “It is not rape. You call it rape. But it is just violence. The sex-worker has agreed. When there are a lot of people in the room it can be violent but it is not rape. And for her own security she must cooperate.”
Nhun grins at me, “You don’t scream, you don’t cry. The only people out at night are gangsters. We call them Big Brother. They are dangerous. As a taxi girl you don’t resist Big Brother. And it’s not rape when we use a condom.”
A few beers down the line, Samnang, whose English improves as he warms to his subject, explains enthusiastically, “In Phnom Penh we have a lot of Bauk, but it’s a young man’s thing. The rape violence started about three years ago. The new generation of well-connected kids has money to burn. They can rape girls. The law won’t punish them. “
The above stories are just a minuscule representation of the horror which goes on here. Most rapes go unreported, for fear of retaliation, or being banished from their communities.
There are some NGO’s which victims can turn to, however ‘bauk’ is so popular now it seems impossible to stop.