Discrimination is something we all do all the time. We use mental shortcuts of our past experiences to make decisions easier. However, some discrimination is wrong and can be bad for society. When people of a certain race or gender are excluded from jobs solely on the basis of their skin or gender then useful, productive workers for that job are forced to do something else that they might not be as good at. A recent article in the Phnom Penh Post details Cambodian women’s difficulty in being treated equally in the workplace. (story here).
Section 2, Article 12 of The Labor Law of 1997 does provide women and many other groups with protections against discrimination, it reads:
Except for the provisions fully expressing under this law, or in any other legislative text or regulation protecting women and children, as well as provisions relating to the entry and stay of foreigners, no employers shall consider on account of:
- political opinion,
- social origin,
- membership of worker’s union or the exercise of union activities;
to be invoked in order to make a decision on:
- defining and assigning of work,
- vocational training,
- granting of social benefits,
- discipline or termination of employment contract.
Distinctions, rejections, or acceptances based on qualifications required for a specific job shall not be considered as discrimination.
This language seems to extend beyond the hiring process and to wage inequality as well.
More generally, the Cambodian Constitution itself says “every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law . . . regardless of race, color, sex, language, religious belief, political tendency, birth origin, social status, wealth or other status” (article 31). That covers an awful lot of people, but are LGBT groups left out? What about the disabled? At the risk of being too bold, I wonder whether the clause would be stronger if it simply said “every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law” full stop?
In 2009, a law was passed that had the purpose to “prevent, reduce and eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities” (article 2 – Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). The law requires all public facilities to provide access for all disabled people (nothing terribly surprising there). However, provisions requiring “ministries and state institutions that recruit civil servants to be employed, shall employ persons with disabilities as states in article 33 of this law, in accordance with the appropriate set quota. The set quota and recruitment process shall be determined by Sub-decree.”
Officials from The Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization have been quoted as being happy with the laws on the books, but unhappy with the resources devoted to implementation (source: here). I suspect women and other groups would have similar things to say.