The Royal Government of Cambodia, development partners, and local and international NGOs have increased their efforts to address violence against children and unnecessary family separation. The laws, policies, action plans and strategies listed below are examples of the structures being put in place to improve the situation for children in Cambodia.
The Policy on Alternative Care for Children (2006)
The Policy on Alternative Care for Children (2006) articulates the government’s support for family- and community-based care. The objectives of the policy are to ensure that children grow up in a family and community, in particular with their biological family and community of origin. It also aims to enhance the capacity of the community to care for and protect vulnerable children through promoting and strengthening community safety nets. The Minimum Standards on Alternative Care for Children (2008) complements the policy on alternative care.
Inter-Ministerial Core Commitment to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Children (2014)
In response to the findings of the Cambodia Violence Against Children Survey, all 13 ministries and members of the inter-ministerial committee on violence against children issued Core Commitments to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Children (2014). The core commitments formed the basis of a costed, national, multi-sectoral action plan to prevent and respond to violence against children in Cambodia.
Cambodia Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Violence against Children (2017 –2021)
The Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Violence against Children (2017¬–2021) sets out roles, responsibilities and activities of various government ministries. It includes key areas of intervention across the sectors of health, social welfare, education and justice, at national, provincial, district and community levels, with a monitoring and evaluation framework The aim of the action plan is to strengthen the national child protection system in Cambodia.
The Sub-Decree on the Management of Residential Care Institutions (2015)
The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation launched the Sub-Decree on the Management of Residential Care Institutions (2015) together with a statement of commitment. These paved the way for a number of critical actions regarding residential care, including reintegrating children living in residential care, the decision not to accept applications for new residential care institutions until all existing institutions had been assessed, and creating a gate-keeping mechanism to control unnecessary requests to place children in institutions.
The Action Plan for Improving Child Care (2016–2018)
The Action Plan for Improving Child Care (2016–2018) aims to promote family preservation, de-institutionalization and reintegration of children in residential care back into their homes and communities. This action plan has been extended until 2019 and is contributing to the reintegration of children from residential care with their families and communities. It is also helping to reduce the number of children in residential care institutions and build the capacity of the child protection system, especially on alternative care.
Sub-Decree 34 was launched to devolve the responsibility of providing child protection services from the national to the sub-national level. In March 2017, the government endorsed the sub-decree, which saw management of state child care centres move away from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation to capital and provincial administrations, such as Departments of Social Affairs. The responsibility for inspecting NGO-run residential care homes moved to Offices of Social Affairs. The management of community-based victim and vulnerable child care services moved to capital, city and commune administrations, with funding and staff being reallocated accordingly.
The Child-Friendly Schools Policy (2007)
The Child-Friendly Schools Policy (2007) aims to ensure that all children, especially children in difficult circumstances, have equitable access to schooling. It also aims to ensure that all children who are at school are cared for and supported by concerned authorities and institutions so that they remain healthy, safe and protected from violence–at school, in the family and in society. The associated Manual on Preventing Violence Against Children (2008) was produced to increase awareness about the causes and consequences of different types of violence in schools. The manual lists responsibilities of school directors, teachers, students, parents or guardians, as well as local authorities, in preventing violence against children.
The Wat Sangkahak Komar policy (Child Safeguarding Policy)
The Wat Sangkahak Komar policy (Child Safeguarding Policy) is part of a comprehensive mechanism within pagodas to respond to suspected and reported cases of violence against or abuse of children. Action to improve the safety of children within pagoda compounds and in communities includes: 1) Building the capacity of monks to prevent and respond to violence against children through training monks and developing a curriculum to be incorporated into the Buddhist Education System (primary, secondary and graduate); 2) Monks’ active involvement in educating communities and raising their awareness to prevent and respond to violence against children and to prevent unnecessary family separation; and 3) Establishing a Pagoda Child Protection Programme, including a comprehensive safeguarding mechanism to respond to suspected and reported cases of abuse of any child within the pagoda compound and in the community.
The Teacher Training Package on Positive Discipline
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has developed a teacher training package on positive discipline, aimed to foster secure, child-friendly and non-violent relationships between teachers and their students. The package focuses on effective ways to manage classrooms, resolve conflicts non-violently and create positive student-teacher relationships. It includes: a revised child-friendly schools manual on preventing violence against children, and three accompanying tool books on positive discipline: 1) A Guide for Facilitators; 2) A Tool Book for Senior School Leaders; and 3) A Tool Book for Primary School Teachers.
The Positive Parenting Strategy 2017
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs launched the Positive Parenting Strategy, together with toolkits, in December 2017. The strategy aims to help prevent and reduce violence against children and keep families together by promoting positive parenting and increasing access to appropriate and timely parenting support. It also serves as guidance for government and non-government actors working with children and families. Through community-based parenting sessions, the strategy encourages changing inappropriate behaviours that cause violence against children, including serious corporal punishment, and highlights the need to increase understanding about child rights and the development of children.
The Partnership Programme for the Protection of Children (3PC)
Under the leadership of Friends International, the Partnership Programme for the Protection of Children (3PC) brings together 10 NGOs working in child protection in Cambodia. The partners work closely to coordinate social work services, reintegrate children from institutional care, work with families and communities to strengthen their ability to protect children, and offer emergency response when needed. 3PC collaborates with the government to strengthen the child protection system nationwide.
The Cambodia PROTECT Strategy 2019-2024
The Cambodia PROTECT strategy is a national communication and awareness-raising campaign focusing on teaching people that any form of violence, and any unnecessary family separation, is wrong. Accepted social norms and out-dated ideas can lead to children being physically and emotionally abused, and to family breakdown and unnecessary separation. UNICEF worked with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and other key line ministries to develop this government-led communication strategy. The strategy aims to address the social and cultural norms that legitimize violence against children and normalize the belief that residential care facilities are beneficial to a child.
The Juvenile Justice Law
In 2016, Cambodia adopted new legislation focusing on ‘diversion’ rather than punishment. The adoption of the Juvenile Justice Law was a critical move towards building a separate juvenile justice system that guarantees the respect of the rights of children in the justice process and ensures they are treated in a way that is adapted to their age. The juvenile justice law is the first measure of its kind in Cambodia to protect the rights of children in conflict with the law by focusing on diversion as the proper response to youth criminality. To deal with children in conflict with the law, the Juvenile Justice Law requires specialized justice actors and a specialized unit, including judicial police officers, prosecutors, judges and courts. The law states that arrest, detention and imprisonment should be measures of last resort.
The Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation
The Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation aims to suppress acts of human trafficking and sexual exploitation to: protect the rights and dignity of human beings; improve the health and welfare of citizens; preserve and enhance good national customs; and implement the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. This supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, or other international instruments or agreements with regard to human trafficking that the Kingdom of Cambodia has ratified or signed.