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Title : A comparative Analysis of Traditional and Contemporary Roles of Khmer Woman in the Household, A case study in Leap Tong village
Type Master Degree Thesis
File Size : 968 KB
Language English
Author : Ms. Ang Sokroeun


This thesis is a comparative analysis of traditional and contemporary roles of Cambodian women in the household. This study explores traditional ideas about women as drawn from Khmer literature, and analyses how these traditional roles have changed, as expressed by Khmer women themselves, focusing on the duties of a daughter, a wife, and a mother.

A number of research methods were used, including secondary sources, semi-structured interviews, and observation. The research included a case study in Leap Tong village to examine the knowledge of women on the cpāp’ srī. There I interviewed thirty-six women, about 10 percent of all households. The study then explores the challenges to traditional ideas about women’s roles by questioning those women, three elderly men and some experts on women’s issues.

The outcomes of the study show the cpāp’ srī represents the most common and well-known source of gender ideals at the grass-root level; while women could not remember the text to recite, the meaning was passed on from grandmother to mother and to daughter and from elderly villagers to young women. Educated women could recite a few sections of verse. Likewise, the characteristics of heroes or heroines in folktales influence residents’ ideas about the proper behaviour of women, though the image of perfect woman, srī grap’ a $ lakkhan was rarely seen in the reality, but only in the stories. They had their own internalized concept of the code of women’s conduct “cpāp’ srī” drawn from mothers’ or elder’s advice, cpāp’ srī texts, monks’ sermons, and Khmer folk literature. Elderly women believed that following the code of women’s conduct can lead to happiness in their families. In contrast, young women said the cpāp’ srī is too strict and they could not practice all the points. However, all women stated that they still followed some points, for example being responsible for domestic work.

The results also demonstrate that labour issues are keys to understanding gender roles. Today most women go to work outside the home and are also responsible for household chores too. Traditional roles are challenged: first, as society changes; and second, as economic growth and the need for modern materials cause women to take jobs as sellers or wage labourers to support their families. Some men in the village work primarily in the rice fields, but the rice production is inadequate to meet the family’s needs. They work only half of the year and are free the rest, so some go to work in the city or to the provincial border with neighbour countries. Some stay home, look after the house in order to let their wives do petty business which men do not do. And in today’s society women could not depend only on the small amount of money from men’s wage labour. Third, as new ideas about Women’s Rights and gender are spreading through the country, the roles and status of women have changed. Men have to recognize women’s rights as well as duties at home. Fourth, in “the age of information,” the mass media influences people’s lives, including women’s roles. It seems reasonable to assume that traditional norms can co-exist with adapted gender roles that offer an equitable balance between men and women.

source: Buddhist Institute of Cambodia