My English class had on average 30 people attending. That’s about as many as could be fit within the space of our classroom. Strangely enough, there was only one girl in the class, the rest were boys (of which about 10 were monks). Because class was open for anyone who wished to improve their English (this was an advanced speaker’s class), there were odd days when we had two girls in the class, but for the most part there was only one. The disproportionate gender distribution was instantly noticeable and got me curious.
Since it was not only my class that suffered from severe lack of women in comparison to men, I asked why there were hardly any girls attention the classes in Wat Preah Prom Rath Pagoda. What I was told was not a bit surprising. My students simply said that if I went to the Khmer University in Siem Reap, I would see the same ratio of women vs men. They said only about 4 girls attended the university, the rest were all boys.
I was curious why that was so I kept asking. Did Cambodian women have aversion to education or was there something else in play? The responses from my students suggested that based on Cambodian cultural and societal beliefs, the place for a woman is at home, looking after children and making her man happy. She is not to care about anything else and should always stay by the side of her man, even if he cheats on her or beats her up, which is a common treatment Cambodian women receive from their husbands.
The world has moved forward and both sexes are deemed equal in most of the world, but some countries still perceive women as the lesser of the two. Cambodia appears to be one of them. High rates of rape also suggest that many Cambodian men perceive and treat women as mere sexual objects. Sadly enough, it is socially and culturally unacceptable for a Cambodian woman to admit pre-marital sex, even if she was brutally forced into it. Because of that, most cases of rape don’t get reported and remain a burden a woman-victim is left alone to bear.