Valentine’s Day can be more than cavities and bearhugs, so whether you’re spoiling yourself or cultivating a long-term love, these hints for the holiday can help you to know where to spend it and where not to.
Cambodia can’t get enough of Valentine’s Day. There are many reasons for this, both cultural as well as linguistic. For starters, Cambodians can be melodramatic when it comes to matters of the heart. There’s the syntax. Valentine’s Day hints at a very important Khmer word: songsar.
Cambodia, which is officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and once known as the Khmer Empire, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia.
Washington publication reported that, it’s often loosely translated as “sweetheart.” Or sometimes “valentine.” But those don’t really get at the complexities of the word. A better translation would be something along the lines of “someone I think I’m going to marry” or “someone I want to marry.” And therein lies the problem. Because when some Cambodians think of Valentine’s Day, they think of that songsar, and expect they’re going to have sex with them. Whether it’s consensual or not, research suggests.
Cambodia already has a fairly significant problem with rape. According to United Nations research, one in five Cambodian men admit to raping a woman at least once. Half of that number started before the age of 20. And nearly two-thirds said they had raped their partner, or more explicitly, their songsar.
Valentine’s Day only exacerbates that trend, government officials say. “This year, we are asking teachers to properly advise their students,” Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron told the Cambodia Daily. “Stop thinking anymore about Valentine’s Day. Buying flowers for each other is fine, but if it is meant to move beyond friendship and lose one’s virginity – that is not right.”
Teenage sex is nothing unique to Cambodia. But this unique confluence of factors – an already-high rate of rape as well as a bad translation that implies one is supposed to take the virginity of one’s songsar – has turned Valentine’s Day into a day of rape, government officials say.
“Valentine’s Day is the day that they shall sacrifice their bodies for sweethearts and cause the loss of personal and family dignity,” the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport warned last year, according to the Cambodian Daily.
“Valentine’s Day is Western culture, a foreign culture. Boys can exploit Valentine’s Day and take advantage of girls, while girls sometimes are confused about what their role is on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day exposes the youth to rape.”