Due to discrimination, sexual minorities in the country face high poverty, bullying and elevated dropout rates, with the government’s ambiguous stance on LGBT issues worsening the situation, a UN report says.
“Laws and policies in Cambodia are silent on LGBT people and rights,” states Being LGBT in Asia: Cambodia Country Report, which was funded by the UN Development Program and USAID.
Its author, Vicente Salas, said at a conference yesterday that this means LGBT people can be discriminated against with impunity, citing reports of corrupt cops arresting transgender people in parks for simply waving at each other.
“But if other people wave at each other it’s OK,” Salas said.
One person fighting for the government to improve LGBT rights is Nuon Sidar, a project coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
Sidar is pushing the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to include the LGBT community in its latest plan to fight violence against women, but “so far we are not quite there”, he said.
However, for many, the major issues remain outside the reach of legislation.
“The main problem facing us is family discrimination,” said Houn Bun Virak, who works with Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), Cambodia’s first recognised NGO dedicated to LGBT rights.
“When my parents kicked me out of my home, I was so hurt. [Being gay] is natural, I cannot change.”
Despite the government’s lack of action and cultural prejudices, the Kingdom’s LGBT population is increasingly connected by urbanisation and social media, the report notes.
Phat Sokchea, 42, said at yesterday’s conference that, as a gay man, he had seen some change in society’s attitudes towards his community.
“I notice that nowadays many people are interested in us,” he said. “They treat us like they would other people.”