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Groups seek UN help on health rights issues

Legalisation of same-sex marriage, comprehensive sex education and non-discriminatory guidelines for health workers treating LGBT people and those living with HIV/AIDS are among a handful of ways to bolster human rights in Cambodia, according to a submission delivered to the United Nations ahead of the January Universal Periodic Review.

The paper was drawn up by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights along with two international organisations for the country’s second-ever UPR, in which the UN Human Rights Council will evaluate Cambodia’s human rights situation.

Among the sexual and reproductive health and rights issues addressed in the eight-page report are quality of health services, challenges caused by the criminalisation of sex work, entrenched difficulties faced by individuals living with HIV/AIDS, lackluster sex education, and “a discussion of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity across a wide range of sectors, including families and communities, the workplace, healthcare and law enforcement.”

Despite the report’s acknowledgement of a slight improvement since 2009 – when the first review was held – many of the promises made by the government following the UN’s report went unfulfilled, Ou Virak, executive director of CCHR said.

“The government agreed to all 91 recommendations – an indication that none of them were taken seriously,” he said.

For example, the submission highlights the negative impacts on preventative health and sexual health in general when the sector remains understaffed and underfunded.

“I don’t think it’s just about a lack of funding, but how efficiently and effectively healthcare funding is being distributed,” executive director of Medicam Sin Somuny said.

In an email, Srorn Srun, a local activist and facilitator at Rainbow Community Kampuchea, cited several cases of local police discriminating against LGBT individuals in provinces throughout the country.

“We need [national policies] protecting LGBT communities based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

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