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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tough times for same-sex couples

Tough times for same-sex couples

IN Cambodia, in the last few years, Valentine’s Day has become the point of interest for men and women to hold parties for their loved one or partners of the opposite sex, but perhaps more of us should be interested about what homosexual love partners are doing and planning for Valentine’s Day, for they are being restricted by tradition and culture in Khmer society.

Clad in long loose-sleeved shirt and short folded skirt, wearing school uniform, Veasna with short straight loose hair and a voice and gestures like a boy is sitting in a romantic position with a beautiful girl of similar age.

Veasna refused to use her real name as she is too embarrassed to show that she loves a person of the same sex, but some of her friends said that they always demonstrate intimacy and use sweet words.

Veana, 19, said that she has been with her girlfriend for two years, and they always celebrate Valentine’s Day for their love that is kept secret from their families and society.

“We do not have any big party; we only do what we do celebrating at New Year and Christmas. I will give a surprise gift to her, and we eat out like love partners in a supermarket, go to the cinema or listen to music together, and at dawn, I accompany her to her house and always protect her.”

Votey, Veasna’s boyfriend, told me, “I will also have a special gift for her, but I’m not sure what it is yet. If Veasna takes me home, my parents will not be worried because they do not think that we each other. However, we have to return home before 8pm so that our parents will not worry “.

Boramei is a lesbian who will spend weekends and today with her girlfriend who she has known for about two months.

She is 22 and has changed partners twice and says: “I will give her a gift and buy tickets to watch a concert in the evening then at the weekend, we will go to Sihanouk City together.

“I remember that my first girlfriend created a lot of good memories on Valentine’s Day last year before she left me for marriage.”

Most parents are always more concerned about their daughters’ safety than that of their sons but they do not think about many problems facing all young people.

Delech, 20, is gay but he said that he does not like using make-up as lady boys do. He said that Valentine’s Day is special for him and his group to meet and have fun together.

“Generally, my parents do not care much about me hanging around, they give me exceptions on holidays,”” he says. “If I go out late, I will give them a ring, telling them that I will spend a night at my friends’ homes or go to a dance and drink through the night.”   

A guy confessing to never having been in love before Delech told us: “For this kind of day, we mostly have many happy programs at the entertainment clubs and gay bar and we can meet new friends or partners easily. We have some female friends and like going to clubs and finding new friends or partners”, added Delech.

Dr Ly Cheng Huy, editor-in-chief of Our Health Magazine said  care was vital in sex.

According to Sy Vanpatum, Secretary of State of Women’s Affairs, homosexuality and lesbianism is generally seen as foreign culture and happens mostly in downtown areas such as Phnom Penh and provinces that have a lot of foreign tourists, namely Svay Rieng, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap.

Sy Vanpatum who in charge of a child and woman education project at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs added that there were a lot problems which could affect this Valentine’s Day such as things which impact upon the value of culture, society, custom and national tradition.

She said it also made students avoid going to school on the day, which was not an official holiday and that if they had sex at an early age, it could affect their reproductive health in the future and lead to  disease or infection.

Sy Vanpatum said: “Seeing these are sensitive issues, the ministry started to conduct education campaigns at schools last year in order to educate Khmer youths not to be obsessed with Valentine’s Day which is foreign to our culture.

“This year the ministry is adding more campaigns to educate vulnerable youths in provinces with some workshops to educate 250 teachers.”

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