HENG Sreyleang*, a lesbian living in Battambang province, says she has no recourse to challenge her parents, who intend for her to marry a man.
“[How] is it that my parents can force me to get married without society or the authorities punishing them? I want to live with the person I love,” she said in a recent interview with the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.
She said she had nowhere to turn for help after her family intervened to end her relationship.
“They stopped me talking to women and my girlfriend’s family has stopped her from meeting me,” she said.
The current situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual people in Cambodia, a new report from CCHR due to be released on December 10, finds that while discrimination based on sexual identity is widespread, the Kingdom can be especially intolerant of lesbianism.
“Lesbian and female-to-male transgender sexualities, generally hidden as lesbian relationships, are particularly incomprehensible to Cambodian society,” the report states. “Given the traditional gender roles, women have less ability to pursue such relationships than homosexual males, either privately or publicly.”
The report, which draws on more than 50 interviews, notes that although LGBT rights are implicitly protected by the Cambodian constitution, there is little political or social support.
“LGBT individuals face discrimination and abuse from not only their families, communities and employers but also from state institutions such as local authorities and police,” the report states. “Those that do report instances of abuse may be ignored or worse yet, face further abuse.”
Srorn Srun, a CCHR project coordinator, said legislative change could help improve the situation.
“If LGBT face problems and need support from police, no police will take actions because they don’t support LGBT. ”
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that government policy was antidiscriminatory.
“People who have assumptions or behaviours against gays or lesbians, they can be prosecuted,” he said. “Everyone is subject to the law. We don’t want anyone to be abused by anyone.”
*Not real name