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Journal Article


Eisenbruch M. Cult. Med. Psychiatry 2018; 42(2): 315-349.


Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


(Copyright © 2018, Holtzbrinck Springer Nature Publishing Group)






Almost one in four women in Cambodia is a victim of physical, emotional or sexual violence. The study aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which Cambodians see its causes and effects and to identify and analyse the cultural forces that underpin and shape its landscape. An ethnographic study was carried out with 102 perpetrators and survivors of emotional, physical and sexual violence against women and 228 key informants from the Buddhist and healing sectors. Their views and experiences of it were recorded-the popular idioms expressed and the symptoms of distress experienced by survivors and perpetrators. From these results, the eight cultural forces, or cultural attractors, that are seen to propel a person to violence were identified. Violence stemmed from blighted endowment, or 'bad building' (sɑmnaaŋ mɨn lʔɑɑ) determined by deeds in a previous life (kam). Children with a vicious character (kmeeŋ kaac or doṣa-carita) might grow to be abusers, and particular birthmarks on boys were thought to be portents. Krʊəh, or mishap, especially when a female's horoscope predicted a zodiac house on the descent (riesəy), explained vulnerability to violence and its timing. Astrological incompatibility (kuu kam) was a risk factor. Lust, anger and ignorance, the 'Triple Poison', fuelled it. 'Entering the road to ruin' (apāyamuk), including alcohol abuse, womanising and gambling, triggered it. Confusion and loss of judgement (mohā) led to moral blindness (mo baŋ). These were the eight cultural attractors that shaped the landscape of violence against women. The cultural epigenesis of violence against women in Cambodia is an insight which can be used to build culturally responsive interventions and strengthen the primary prevention of violence against women. An understanding of the epigenesis of violence could strengthen the primary prevention of violence against women.

Language: en


Buddhism; Cambodia; Cultural epigenesis; Ethnography; Gender-based violence; Violence; Violence against women


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