More than 40 civil society groups and trade unions yesterday called on the government to follow in Taiwan’s footsteps and legalise same-sex marriage.
In a joint statement signed by 43 organisations, the groups congratulated Taiwan for recognising and validating its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning community in the May 24 ruling legalising same sex marriage – the first of its kind in Asia.
“Taiwan becomes a trailblazer in respect of LGBT rights in Asia, building momentum for marriage equality across the continent. We take this historic opportunity to call upon the Cambodian government to show its commitment to LGBT rights by legislating for same-sex marriage in Cambodia,” the statement read.
The statement added that the LGBT community in Cambodia faces enormous challenges from marriage inequality to daily discrimination in society. The denial of marriage rights, the groups said, was a form of cultural and social isolation which alienated people from their own families and communities.
Same-sex relationships are not illegal in Cambodia, unlike many of its neighbours, however legislation to allow for gay marriage is still absent. According to the Diplomat magazine, the LGBT community received royal support from the late King Norodom Sihanouk as well as the current King Norodom Sihamoni, but this has not shielded them from discrimination by family, friends and society in general.
A 2016 report by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) revealed that 53 percent of transgender women had been subject to attempts of forced marriage by their parents, while 41 percent of transgender women had experienced suicidal thoughts due to the discrimination they encounter. It also found that 80 percent of LGBT youth had experienced depression.
A report by Rainbow Community of Kampuchea in late 2015 found 64 percent of LGBT Cambodians had experienced exclusion from their families due to their sexual identities.
Eighty-two percent of LGBT Cambodians felt that marriage equality was a priority in improving their lives.
“There is now an unparalleled opportunity for Cambodia to join Taiwan in becoming a world leader in respect of LGBT rights, by legislating for marriage equal rights for LGBT Cambodians,” the statement said.