The head of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee has encouraged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people to keep up the pressure for social recognition and reduced discrimination, so that legislators may consider policies to recognise them legally.
Keo Remy spoke at the 7th International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association Asia conference “United for Love” at the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh.
About 300 LGBTIQ people, development partners, organisations, embassy representatives and local authorities from more than 30 countries took part.
Some countries in the region consider homosexuality a crime, with fines and imprisonment.
Others, including Cambodia, have no punishment and there is wide freedom for LGBTIQ people although the Cambodian Constitution has not yet recognised them.
Mr Remy called on LGBTIQ people continue to educate and disseminate awareness of their rights in local communities, across the nation and among their families.
He said they must not cause any problems in society so that legislators would consider preparing amendments to the law in accordance with the social, cultural, economic and political context of the country “For Cambodia, it is not a problem,” he said. “But we may take some time to educate the people in the community and to get recognition from Cambodian society.
“After that, legislators will prepare policies and amend the law giving them legal recognition.”
Soth Ouk, a 49-year-old LGBTIQ person from Mondulkiri province, said people in her community do not know about the rights and the desires of LGBTIQ people yet.
This meant LGBTIQ people suffered from discrimination, psychological abuse and violence by members of their families.
She asked local authorities to hold public meetings to educate and raise awareness of LGBTIQ issues in the community.
“I want this to be disseminated widely. I want to stop repression and discrimination against LGBTIQ people.
“In the countryside, they do not respect our rights. They insult us like we are crazy and stupid to love the same sex. It hurts when I hear that.”
Rainbow community Kampuchea coordinator Ly Pisey said: “Although there is a lot of understanding of the diversity of gender and sexual orientation in Cambodia, it needs ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the LGBTIQ issues to local levels and strengthen legal protections.”
Mr Remy quoted from an Asean Youth Future report which said that Cambodia has more than 33,000 LGBTIQ people, including about 6,000 couples who live together.