Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cambodia Dating Scene

8:02 AM
Relationships and dating are an area interest for me, ironically, being single and all. Probably because of my job, where I actually teach students how to have a healthy relationship, and future marriage. So I thought I would take some time to learn and talk about the current Cambodian dating culture. Well, there isn't one. Cambodians do not date. At all. If a girl and boy are seen together alone somewhere it is assumed they are already engaged or married. So how do Cambodian marriages actually happen? Many are still arranged marriages, where neither party has a choice in who they are marrying. But others it's your typical boy-meets-girl scenario, with a twist. Boy sees girl, she catches his fancy, but doesn't dare approach her. Instead he asks people about her. Who is she? Is she single? Where is she from? What is her family like? After he feels like he has a good idea of who she is and where she comes from, and if he likes what he hears, he approaches her parents. Father and prospective suitor meet, discuss future marriage, and negotiate a price for his daughter, either monetary or goods. At this point, the couple is engaged and now may get to know each other a little. The wedding arrives and its a rich celebration steeped in tradition and family honor. And the couple lives happily ever after?What happens to these couples after the “I do”?

Well, women are taught since birth to respect men and honor and obey them. So a wife has a strong allegiance to her husband. Men are not taught this principle. Men disrespecting their wives (and women in general) is common and expected. Husbands are abusive and unfaithful, and wives are supposed to take it. It's no wonder so many in this culture are in bondage!

I know dating isn't the best invention of the modern Western world, but how else does one discover compatibility with a partner? Do these cultures even want marriages to last? For a country that is so focused on the family, they sure have a warped view of marriage.

I write about this because I think it plays into the issue of sex trafficking here in Cambodia. Men who are unhappy at home with wives they married without knowing, go searching for the physical comforts of a woman. Or men who are too poor to afford a bride, looking to meet some needs, hire one of these bar girls for the night. And women, never taught to stand up for themselves, or value themselves, or realize they are more than a man's object, are caught in this industry to provide for family. How heartbreaking, how devastating, and how overwhelming.

About the author

Joy Muldoon is a full-time missionary and part-time blogger. Read about her travels, adventures, and missions here!