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Same-sex discrimination declines

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Volunteers set up a stage for an event to celebrate LGBTIQ rights in May 2017 in Takeo province. Sahiba Chawdhary

Same-sex discrimination declines

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) released a report on Friday which showed that discrimination against same-sex partners in communities has decreased, but they lack major legal protections.

The report, released in conjunction with the May 17 International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, made numerous references to the 2017 research report entitled Cambodia’s Rainbow Families.

The report said although there was a trend towards acceptance of same-sex couples, CCHR research shows the denial and discrimination contained in the legal framework.

This resulted in a lack of major legal protections in many parts of their family life – including marriage rights, full adoption rights and legal gender recognition.

“Eighty-eight per cent of Rainbow Families believe that discrimination would be reduced if they were legally permitted to marry their partner. Excluding LGBTIQ people from the institution of marriage excludes them from one of the foundations of Cambodian society,” CCHR said.

The report also provided recommendations for the government to ensure equal rights of Cambodia’s rainbow families for same-sex partners by requesting the government to amend the Constitution and civil code and enact laws to provide for same-sex partners to get full legal protection in their family life.

Keo Sarith, in his 30s, who has a partner of the same sex, said that in Cambodia the discrimination against those like him have gradually decreased as people have begun to understand the issue.

However, he said the rights to legal protection are not better as yet.

Sarith also said that “the legal protection for me is 50/50. It is not fully 100 per cent. Sometimes there are laws but they are difficult to enforce.

“We asked the commune chief and village chief to get married but this is not significant as there is no recognition in the form of a legal document,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that so far, the government has supported same-sex partners and does whatever it can to avoid discrimination and facilitation for them in terms of joint ownership of property and some legal preferences.

However, to amend the law requires a necessity. It must also be in line with the good Khmer traditions and customs, he said.

Siphan said: “It is a new thing to organise our country as per the law which serves to protect society . . . so civil society should meet its goal and desires to get the Cambodian government to pass a law to protect [them]."

“Such efforts should include the provisions that are required and how to convince legal officials to recognise and participate in the issue.”

CCHR said that in 2016 there were around 1.4 million same-sex partners and that more of them have come out into the open about their sexual preferences without hiding it anymore.

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