Red Weddings in The Khmer Rouge: Conceptualizing Conflict‐Related Forced Marriages

Zhi Ming Sim, Politics, York University


Gender, Peace and Security in Southeast Asia


Examining the newly concluded and released Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of

Cambodia (ECCC) documentation and testimonies (dating 2009–19) of Case 002/02, this paper argues that “red weddings,” or conflict-related forced marriage enforced during the Khmer Rouge, were employed to reconstruct a new political order under the Khmer Rouge regime for a total collectivization of the economy. I liken the implementation of forced marriages to a Homo Sacerliked project where it is a practice, a mechanism, and a tool in reorganizing social relations of power. It works to render the family institution secondary to the Party by abolishing and recoding social and political ties and relations built through the family institutions from the previous Sihanouk regime. Concurrently, forced marriages are also opportunistic rites for the leadership to bolster its political legitimacy through its claims as both parent and a divine being. Under the imposition of forced marriage, Cambodians are rendered “rightless” subjects to be mobilized in building a total socialist utopia.

This paper is significant in entrenching forced marriages into the conditions of interstate conflict, addressing the Khmer Rouge’s implementation of forced marriage as a form of social reproduction of its sovereign power. Finally, this paper challenges dominant feminist renditions that forced marriage, as a conflict-related gender-based violence is a “weapon of war.” Rather, I show that forced marriage practices restructure governmentality with deeper roots in patriarchal relations than just a weapon of war and points to the morbid forms of masculinity that socialist or capitalist sovereignties are inscribed.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |