Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Abuses prevalent for Cambodia's transgender women: study

Abuses prevalent for Cambodia's transgender women: study

A person speaks at CCHR yesterday during the launch of a report about discrimination against transgender women in Cambodia’s urban centres.
A person speaks at CCHR yesterday during the launch of a report about discrimination against transgender women in Cambodia’s urban centres. Hong Menea

Abuses prevalent for Cambodia's transgender women: study

An overwhelming majority of transgender women on Cambodia’s city streets are subject to “shocking” harassment and abuse, according to a new report from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR).

The report, released yesterday, also shines a light on a disturbing new practice that has allegedly taken root among Siem Reap police in which transgender sex workers are targeted and forced to bathe in the “dirty, stagnant river”.

A total of 135 trans women in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville were surveyed for the Discrimination Against Transgender Women in Cambodia’s Urban Centres report, which found 92 percent had experienced verbal abuse in public spaces.

More disturbingly, a quarter of women surveyed were raped in public, while about 43 percent were subjected to physical abuse. But the police – the people tasked with protecting them – are often the perpetrators of discrimination and abuse, the report found. Almost 40 percent had been arrested by the authorities, with the majority suspecting their transgender identity was the sole cause of the arrest.

The report shares the story of a trans woman identified by the pseudonym Srey Lim, who claimed Siem Reap police had forced her to either get into the dirty river, or pay a $30 fine that she could not afford.

“It’s really unacceptable, it makes me upset,” Lim said in the study, adding that non-trans sex workers were not subjected to the same humiliating punishment, in which they were also made to strip off clothes, wigs and make-up – part of their gender expression.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

The report stated the practice could amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and possibly torture, under international law because of its discriminatory nature and psychological impacts.

“I’ve been faced with violence from the police in the past, but it’s true I haven’t been to the police station to report it. I don’t think there’s any point; I wouldn’t win,” Lim said.

However, Phoeung Chendareth, Siem Reap provincial police chief of minor crimes, said that forced bathing had “never happened” there. “We don’t discriminate against anyone,” he said.

“I pity them,” he added, referring to transgender women. “Sometimes [when they are arrested], I even buy chicken rice for them.”

The study also examined other forms of discrimination – more than a third of respondents, for example, said they had been refused work, and a quarter had been fired because they were transgender. Discrimination also sometimes pigeonholes trans women into “feminised” work, such as sex work or hairdressing, the report found.

Further, 70 percent said their families did not support them when they first came out, and more than half said their relatives had attempted to force them into a heterosexual marriage, though only three of these marriages went ahead.

For transgender woman Chum Vy, 28 – who said she had been hit and kicked on the street and felt the barbs of slurs like khteuy firsthand – the report painted an all-too-familiar picture.

While her family initially rejected her, too, they have since come to accept her. For Vy, it is vital she can vote – a process made difficult for trans people in Cambodia because there is no process to change ID cards to reflect their true gender identity.

“I want the right to elect people who can represent us, who understand our feelings, our heart,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry taking steps over Thai ‘replica’ of Angkor Wat

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has dispatched experts to inspect the ongoing construction of a temple in Wat Phu Man Fah, located in Thailand’s Buriram province. This temple appears to be a replica of Cambodia’s renowned Angkor Wat. The ministry said

  • Ream base allegations must end, urges official

    A senior government official urges an end to the allegations and suspicions surrounding the development of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, now that Prime Minister Hun Manet has addressed the issue on the floor of the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78). Jean-Francois Tain, a geopolitical

  • PM to open new Siem Reap int’l airport December 1

    Prime Minister Hun Manet and Chinese leaders would jointly participate in the official opening of the new Chinese-invested Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport on December 1. The airport symbolises a new page in the history of Cambodian aviation, which will be able to welcome long-distance flights to

  • CP denied registration documents by ministry

    The Ministry of Interior will not reissue registration documents to the Candlelight Party (CP). Following a September 21 meeting between ministry secretary of state Bun Honn and CP representatives, the ministry cited the fact that there is no relevant law which would authorise it to do

  • Minimum wage set at $204, after Sep 28 vote

    The minimum wage for factory workers in the garment, footwear and travel goods industries for 2024 has been decided at $204 per month, with the government contributing $2. Following several negotiation sessions, the tripartite talks reached an agreement during a September 28 vote, with 46 of 51 votes supporting the $202 figure.

  • Cambodian diaspora laud Manet’s UN Assembly visit

    Members of the Cambodian diaspora are rallying in support of Prime Minister Hun Manet’s forthcoming visit to the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) in the US’ New York City this week. Their move is an apparent response to a recent call by self-exiled former