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Cambodian Facebook vendor gets six months prison for 'pornographic' adverts

by Matt Blomberg | @BlombergMD | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 24 April 2020 15:59 GMT

The woman was arrested after selling clothing and cosmetics on Facebook while wearing scanty outfits

(Updates with Facebook para 8)

By Matt Blomberg

PHNOM PENH, April 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - 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 Gender for Development in Cambodia charity.

"Is this what we classify as pornography now?"

Selling clothing and beauty products via Facebook live streams is a rising trend in conservative Cambodia, where many expect women to be submissive and quiet, a legacy of the Chbap Srey, an oppressive code of conduct for women.

Facebook declined to comment.

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, advocacy group 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. (Reporting by Matt Blomberg, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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