Bophana Center Fires Two Staff After Sexual Harassment Allegations

2 min read
The entrance to the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in Phnom Penh on November 2, 2022. (Michael Dickison/VOD)
[responsivevoice_button voice="US English Female"]

Filmmaking NGO Bophana Center said it is terminating two trainers after investigating accusations of sexual harassment against them.

Three trainees of its documentary filmmaking program came forward to say there was touching that made them uncomfortable and sexually suggestive comments during the nearly yearlong course, including on field trips. They said they felt pressured to continue with the program anyway due to contracts with the center and a warning that they would need to repay costs if they quit.

Told of the allegations, Bophana Center last week said it would investigate, while asking VOD not to publish an article on the trainees’ claims as there could be “defamation.”

A day later on Saturday, the center issued a statement that its investigation had now concluded.

“The investigation’s findings upheld the allegations made by the complainants and Bophana dismissed both of the employees responsible for the harassment that same day,” it said.

“Bophana profoundly regrets the considerable pain caused to the trainees affected and extends to them an unequivocal apology.”

The center would commission an independent third-party evaluator to review policies; create new whistle-blower protections; roll out new training for staff; expand its human resources department to develop the organization’s culture; and survey staff, students and partners anonymously about their experiences at the center.

“We recognise that we have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for the next generation of Cambodian filmmakers to develop their skills and talents, and to play our part in changing the culture of our sector,” director Chea Sopheap said in the statement. “Bophana Centre does not tolerate any forms of sexual harassment or other types of discrimination. … We are grateful to the victims whose courage brought these issues to light.”

Feminist organization Klahaan’s director Bunn Rachana previously cautioned against frequent jokes about sexual harassment in entertainment; the lack of awareness-raising both inside the formal education system and outside, including in media; and the common idea that incidents are only serious if there is rape.

“How did they feel after facing the actions?” Rachana said about potential sexual harassment while noting the significance of power relations in many incidents. “If the trainees feel the actions were unwelcome, it is harassment. The teacher has power over the students.”

VOD. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission. VOD is not responsible for any infringement in all forms. The perpetrator may be subject to legal action under Cambodian laws and related laws.