Ending Violence against Women and Children in Cambodia: Opportunities and challenges for collaborative and integrative approaches

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While the fields working to end VAC and VAW have largely developed separately, recent reviews and analyses of large datasets have identified multiple intersections between VAC and VAW including: co-occurrence, shared risk factors, similar underlying social norms, common consequences, intergenerational effects, and the period of adolescence as unique period of heightened vulnerabilities to both types of violence. These intersections suggest that collaboration between the sectors is essential to a more effective prevention and response. Integration of certain aspects VAC and VAW prevention and response across services, programmes, and policies may also be advantageous.
However, there are key areas of divergence between the traditional approaches in the VAC and VAW fields that have created challenges to collaboration and may suggest some disadvantages to fully integrative approaches. To date there are no evidence-based or widely accepted integrative models.

This multi country study, commissioned by UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA, explored existing examples of collaboration and integration of VAC and VAW policies, services, and programmes, as well as challenges and future opportunities in the East Asia and Pacific region, with a focus on four countries – Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.

Key research questions

This research initiative sought to answer following overarching questions through dialogues and interviews with relevant stakeholders in each country:

  1. What are the existing VAW and VAC policies, action plans, programmes (prevention) or services (response/support)?

  2. What are some examples of policies, action plans, programmes, or services where there is some evidence of VAW and VAC integration (i.e.: addressing both VAW and VAC at the same time)? Include any efforts to try to develop cohesive strategies or plans or collaboration.

  3. How do VAW-focused and VAC-focused stakeholders collaborate or interact? How do donors drive the VAW-VAC agenda?

  4. What are the areas of tension between VAC and VAW work? How do various stakeholders address areas of tension between VAW and VAC?

a. Under what circumstances are boy-children accommodated in places of safety?

b. How are adolescents’ complex needs met and rights protected?

c. How are mothers viewed and “processed” in VAC cases?

  1. What are some opportunities within the existing policies, action plans, programmes or services where integration and/or collaboration could be introduced or enhanced?

Key findings

Violence against children (VAC) and violence against women (VAW) affect the lives and welfare of millions of people around the world. Many women and children in Cambodia suffer multiple types of violence. The multiple negative sequelae of this violence can be long-lasting throughout the lifespan and across generations as well as impacting on individuals, relationships, communities, and broader society.

• There are good, recent national prevalence data on both VAC and VAW; however, there are no data available on the intersections between VAC and VAW in the Cambodian context.
Administrative data are poor and remain uncoordinated on VAC and VAW cases.

• Government budgets for VAC and VAW are completely separate with no efforts to date on collaborative programme or service funding.

• Donor funding currently prioritises VAW work through government ministries and VAC work through NGOs.

• There are encouraging integrative approaches identified in the primary prevention priorities of the VAC Action Plan and National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women.

• The primary law addressing VAW and VAC in Cambodia is the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims Act (2005); however this piece of legislation contains several gaps including not applying to unmarried, cohabiting, or dating partners (including adolescents) and exceptions for discipline action even if it is violent.

• Commune Committees on Women and Children and even commune police favoured mediation for family violence cases rather than pursuing formal justice remedies. Health sector providers were also reluctant to refer VAC or VAW survivors to law enforcement or justice services and preferred to focus on providing medical care only. In part this may be owing to the social value of family harmony, and to social stigma associated with family discord and economic difficulties presented if men are removed from families. Only if the violence was deemed to be severe would it warrant the social and personal risks of pursuing formal justice and law enforcement avenues.

• There appear to be few specialist VAC or VAW systems or services such as family or sexual offences courts, specialised police units, or one stop service centres for survivors.

• Currently, most available government services are geared for adult women and health services primarily focus on medical care instead of more holistic health support. Even these services are not consistently available throughout the country.

• Shelters are not well-equipped to provide services to women with children, especially boy children over 10 years old.

• There have been several pilot projects focusing on primary prevention of VAC and VAW but these have usually not progressed beyond limited project scope and often do not have rigorous evaluations to inform scale up.
There are several opportunities for exploring integrative prevention programming through collaboration on and adaptation of promising models such as school-based interventions, community interventions with adolescents and caregivers, and teacher training.


• Approach the efforts to strengthen essential services for VAC and VAW survivors with the goal of establishing coordination and collaboration on these two issues and thus include stakeholders and experts from both VAW and VAC fields.

• Pursue integrative programming in primary prevention of VAC and VAW specifically on social norm change. Locally piloted interventions should be reviewed by both VAC and VAW experts and then adapted and expanded including rigorous monitoring and evaluation strategies.

• Prioritise rigorous monitoring, evaluation, and learning within any integrative policy, service, or programming efforts in order to understand the impact on VAC and VAW survivors and their families.

• Ensure that good quality national prevalence data of VAC and VAW are regularly collected and disseminated. Consider conducting research on the intersections between VAC and VAW in Cambodia in order to further strengthen the evidence base.