The Reality for Cambodian Domestic Workers: UN Report Reveals Exposure to Violence

UN Women’s report ‘Out behind closed doors’ reveals workers’ exposure to emotional, physical and sexual violence.

Date: Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Author: Mariken Harbitz

“Som Tos del Kjom thleng santarakatha nis chea pheasa ang kles”(…….) said Sarah Knibbs from UN Women Cambodia opening the report launch in the traditional Khmer language. The UN Women-initiated study aims to fill the knowledge gaps on domestic work in Cambodia. “Domestic workers make enormous contributions to society. But this makes them vulnerable to abuse” said Knibbs. The report highlights that domestic workers – most often women – are victims of emotional, physical and sexual violence. They remain hidden behind closed doors, shielded from public view and attention.

Domestic workers during Domestic Workers Day 2015 in Cambodia. Photo: UN Women/Charlotte Ruetz

“We wanted to provide a snapshot of the day-to-day life of domestic workers” said Ellen Minotti, one of the report authors, during the launch. The report is based on 234 interviews with women and girl domestic workers. Separate, qualitative interviews were conducted with domestic workers who had started working as children: many of them had worked in many homes, were in debt to their employers, were victims of abuse or were giving money to parents. Findings from the report point to domestic work not being valued as a profession in Cambodia. ”Most people in Cambodia do not believe that domestic workers actually have a job” said Minotti.

The report was presented in Phnom Penh to a diverse audience ranging from government officials, civil society organizations, private sectors and development partners. After the findings were presented, a panel discussion highlighted the important aspects of the research, including representativeness. As there is a lack of hard data to inform the policy debate, the study aims to fill the data gaps and provide accurate information on the real lives of a sample of domestic workers.