The Cambodian government should do more to ensure its policies are not being misused to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, a report released by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) on Monday says.
The report, based on interviews with about 300 LGBT individuals, their families, activists and local authorities and police, contends authorities tend to inappropriately target LGBT individuals when enforcing laws and policies created to maintain public order and combat sexual exploitation.
“LGBT people... are more vulnerable than many due to the fact that they often have no option but to congregate in dark and inconspicuous parts of towns, such as unlit parks, in an attempt to avoid the attention of their families and the authorities,” the report says.
“Due to pervasive discrimination and negative stereotyping, the authorities generally assume that such groups of LGBT people are sex workers, engaged in soliciting and prostitution, when often they are simply socialising and expressing themselves freely in as discreet a manner as they can.”
Several community members CCHR interviewed said the Village Commune Safety Policy and the 2008 Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, in particular, were often used to crack down on LGBT lovers.
In addition to reigning in these policy misapplications, the report urges the government to create legislation against hate crimes, cease to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman and amend legislation on equal rights in education, health and employment to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.
Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, denied authorities were using anti-crime and public order laws and policies to discriminate against LGBT individuals.
“There are not LGBT rights violations in Cambodia, because our constitution already says that we must respect everyone’s rights,” she said, adding there was no need for further protections.
“Although we see them loving each other, we don’t arrest them,” she said. “For parents, I don’t think they’re happy to see children go that way, but we have no laws to ban them.”
The ideas from the report were from “Western countries that face problems with [LGBT rights] in their own countries,” she said.
“For us, it’s not a big problem, but [CCHR] is trying to make it one.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Justine Drennan at [email protected]
Chhay Channyda at [email protected]