Cambodian woman jailed for skimpy outfits

Cambodian woman jailed for skimpy outfits

Court says Facebook Live streams used to sell clothes and cosmetics amounted to pornography

PHNOM PENH: A Cambodian woman was sentenced to six months in prison on Friday after a court ruled that her Facebook Live streams selling clothing and cosmetics while wearing skimpy outfits amounted to pornography, women’s rights groups said.

Ven Rachna, 39, was arrested in February, two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech that some online vendors were encouraging sexual assault and disgracing Cambodian culture by wearing scanty outfits.

Having been jailed since her arrest, Rachna will go free early next month, local media reported, with the remainder of her sentence suspended.

Court officials could not be reached for comment, while women’s rights groups were unclear about the release date.

“The big issue here is not the amount of time she spends in prison, but the policies behind her being charged in the first place,” said Ros Sopheap, head of the charity Gender for Development in Cambodia.

“Is this what we classify as pornography now?”

Selling clothing and beauty products via Facebook Live is a rising trend in Cambodia, where many people expect women to be submissive and quiet, a legacy of Chbab Srey, an oppressive code of conduct for women.

In his speech before Rachna’s arrest, the prime minister called for authorities to track down and “educate” women using what he saw as provocative sales pitches.

“Sell your products, not your breasts,” he said.

At the time of Rachna’s arrest, Amnesty International said the charges — of producing pornography and indecent exposure — were an affront to women’s rights.

“This is a deeply unjust conviction which tramples upon women’s rights and freedom of expression,” an Amnesty spokesperson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.

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