Poll: Should Cambodia Criminalize Adultery?September 3, 2006
On Friday, Cambodia’s National Assembly approved a bill which would criminalize adultery. If passed in the Senate and signed by the King, the new law would impose a penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to one million dolla- uh, riel against anyone caught engaging in an act of extramarital sex.
This proposed law appears to be part of the continuing “War on Mistresses” being spearheaded by the insecure wives of some very important people. Apparently, the wives have decided that banning the transmission of titillating images of mistresses on 3G phones was a pretty silly way to try to keep their husbands from cheating. They are now taking a direct approach and outlawing mistresses entirely. As a consolation prize, the important husbands can also use the law to selectively prosecute their mistress-keeping political opponents, which is just good clean fun.
Although the criminalization of adultery is a controversial topic, most rational adults can agree on one thing: Adultery is bad. It probably belongs on some kind of top ten list of things you should never do. Not surprisingly, like most things that are bad for us, adultery is also wildly popular. It has famously been practiced by American presidents, English royalty, and New Zealand sheep farmers. Western studies by creepy, sex-obsessed psychologists report that infidelity occurs in more than 30% of all marriages. Some zealous Christian groups claim that in the United States, up to 100 million acts of adultery take place each year. And that’s just in Kobe Bryant’s Jacuzzi.
The Cambodian rate of adultery is still a mystery. There has been no reliable adultery surveys conducted in Cambodia, probably because many Khmers will not give a direct answer to a question about sex, choosing instead to giggle uncontrollably until the questioner changes the topic. However, adultery is probably even more common in Cambodia than in the West.
This conclusion can be drawn from the high percentage of Khmer bargirls who report that “Cambodia man no good,” and from the frequency of stories in the local tabloids about a Khmer guy who gets axed in the skull after drinking too much palm wine and amorously crawling into bed with his mother-in-law.
Debates about adultery laws are particularly entertaining because radical feminists cannot seem to agree on the issue. Feminists always want to stop men from doing anything enjoyable, and for that reason, some cock-blocking women?s libbers support the criminalization of adultery. However, other equally bitchy feminists vocally oppose anti-adultery laws. They claim that such laws are moralistic and puritanical, and that they interfere with a married woman?s God given right to get drunk on appletinis at the office Christmas party and secretly blow her supervisor in the copy room.
Although feminists are fiercely divided on the issue, the Cambodian National Assembly voted almost unanimously to pass the CPP-sponsored anti-adultery law. These voting results were skewed, however, because pro-adultery members of the opposition were so outraged by the CPP’s effort to legislate the “fun” out of FUNCINPEC that they actually walked out in protest and refused to vote.
These opposition members must be pretty addicted to their “pussy on the side” to publicly walk out of a vote against adultery. Perhaps they marched out humming the Cambodian National Anthem after their party chairman declared, “Isn’t this an indictment of our marriage institutions in general? I put it you, isn’t this an indictment of our entire Cambodian society? Well, you can what you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you bad mouth the Kingdom of Cambodia. Gentlemen!” In any event, there were undoubtedly a few awkward conversations between opposition assemblymen and their wives over dinner Friday night.
Of course, these opponents of the law do not publicly admit that they think marital infidelity is a swell idea. Instead, they argue that only totalitarian regimes like the Khmer Rouge and the Taliban legislate around morality, and that an anti-adultery law would be a regressive step backward for Cambodia. Some quick research reveals that this argument is factually incorrect. Several modern and prosperous Asian countries, like South Korea and Taiwan, have anti-adultery laws, as do more than twenty U.S. states.
So, just as Cambodia got its first escalator in 2003, 107 years after that newfangled contraption debuted in America, Cambodia is now poised to pass an anti-adultery law like those enacted in the U.S. in the early twentieth century. At this rate of slow but undeniable progress, we can expect that a Hula Hoop craze is bound to hit Phnom Penh in roughly 2053.
None of the recent English language news reports contain the exact text of this proposed law, and there are two intriguing questions that the Western press has left unanswered. First, if a married Cambodian has sex with an unmarried lover; will they both be breaking the law, or just the unfaithful spouse? Some Western adultery laws only criminalize the cheating spouse’s conduct, but others equally punish the unmarried home-wrecker. Given suggestions in the press that this law may be designed to persecute mistresses, it is certainly possible that the new law would punish not just the Bills, but also the Monicas.
The next unanswered question is whether the law applies only to Cambodians, or also to foreigners. Most criminal laws apply to anyone who commits the prohibited act in the country, regardless of citizenship. So if this law applies to unmarried home-wreckers, and if it also applies to foreigners, a Western dude could find himself spending a year in Prey Sar Prison if his next Martini’s skank has a Khmer husband who conveniently shows up during their bedroom gymnastics.
Some of the news articles have vaguely referred to the law as prohibiting extramarital sex “by Cambodians,” so the law might specifically exclude foreigners, in which case your local philandering Frenchman can now breathe a bit easier.
The law is expected to easily pass the CPP-controlled Senate, but it will become law only if signed by the King. Now the King most likely has no personal interest in an anti-adultery law. He is, as we know, a “confirmed bachelor,” a man who “has never taken a wife,” and an excellent ballet dancer. Really, that’s not just royal sucking up? his dancing skills are supposedly even better than Saddam Hussein’s novel writing and Kim Jong Il’s filmmaking. Whether or not His Royal Highness will sign the law remains unknown.
Assuming that the anti-adultery law is enacted, it is obviously bad news for the rich husbands of ugly Khmer wives and for the mistresses who love them. Party over. Yet there will be other less obvious “Winners and Losers” under the new law, who should not be overlooked:
1. Absentee Barang Husbands. Let’s say you marry a Khmer wife 20 years your junior. You spend a lot of time in working in Australia to support her and her family while she “wait in room for you” in Cambodia. Of course, you trust her implicitly because you know she is “different” from other moneygrubbing Asian women. But without an adultery law, there is nothing to deter her from shacking up with a layabout Khmer guy while you’re gone, or, even worse, with a Belgian. You are a high risk potential cuckold. An anti-adultery law is your friend.
2. Police. Criminalizing adultery will certainly benefit Khmer police officers. Suddenly, most of their married friends, neighbors, and enemies are subject to arrest at any time for a crime they are probably actually committing. Short on cash the week before Khmer New Year? Just stop by your neighbor’s place and shake him down for some adultery money. If you have a real entrepreneurial spirit, whore out your wife. Each time she humps a guy, you show up at his place five minutes later and threaten to arrest him unless he pays his adultery fine. Easy money.
3. Sexpats. Good news, sexpat, your supply of potential girlfriends may soon be increasing. If all these Khmer mistresses are forced out of their relationships with married Khmer man, they?re going to need somewhere to go. These ex-mistresses are young, single, morally casual, and experienced at pleasing older, wealthier men. Demand for their services will be low, and they may be desperate enough to downgrade from a three-star Khmer general to a two-bit Barang sleazeball like yourself Offer a few of them a free place to stay until they “get back on their back,” so to speak. Pretty soon you?ve got a relatively low cost concubine.
1. Battery Acid Salesgirls. If adultery is banned, there will be no more revenge-driven acid attacks by Khmer wives against their husband?s mistresses. Who else but a crazed Khmer wife is going to pay 1000 riel for a plastic bag full of battery acid? Just close up shop and stop trading in hate, battery acid salesgirls. Your business will soon be as useless and outdated as a shop selling French-language VHS tapes.
2. Mr. Ji.O. He’s a former tourist who apparently got so turned on by the carvings at Banteay Srey that he decided to marry 44 young women from Siem Reap province. Since then, he has sent large sums of money from Japan to impoverished families in the area, generously supporting his 44 wives with houses and motorbikes. Local authorities have received complaints about this arrangement (most likely from aforementioned cock-blocking feminists), but they have correctly responded that “This man did not force them to marry . . . We could not stop him.” Unfortunately for our ambitious Japanese friend, the proposed anti-adultery law also bans bigamy (and incest). Sorry, Mr. Ji.O, you are now about 43 items over the limit at the spousal supermarket express check out line. You’ll have to put most of the girls back on the shelf, or else expect to be hassled by some yen-seeking boys in blue the next time you drop by Siem Reap to visit all your nosy in-laws.