LGBT rights in Cambodia

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LGBT rights in Cambodia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Adoption Yes
Discrimination protections No

Homosexuality is legal in Cambodia, but LGBT people face both social and legal discrimination.

Social background

"Homosexual" is not a Cambodian concept. The Khmer language recognises male ("bros") and female ("srey") as the dominant genders, but also includes term kteuy (equivalent to the Thai "kathoey") for a third gender intermediate between the other two: it describes a person who has the external physical characteristics of either bros or srey but behaves in a manner appropriate to the other. As in Thailand, the term kathoey now refers almost exclusively to the physiologically masculine pair of this term - i.e., physical males who have a female identity, most often expressed in cross-dressing.[1]

The broad category of kteuy covers two distinct sub-groupings, "short hairs" and "long hairs". Long hairs (sak klay) are men who dress and identify as men but have sex with "real" men; they are usually married, and very few of them have sex exclusively with men. Short hairs (also called srey sros, "charming girls"), identify and behave as women, and may use hormones and surgery to change their physical gender. They call themselves kteuy, but may be insulted if outsiders use this term.[2]

"Real men" (bros pith brakat), men who identify, appear and behave as "bros", are the object of desire for both long and short hairs. All "real men" are, or will be, married; some have sex only with women, but others have a range of sexual partners.

Kteuy face significant problems of social acceptance (including issues relating to marriage and children) and violence. The general social environment towards kteuy is tolerant, but those who transgress gender behaviour are nevertheless treated with contempt and subject to discrimination ("real men" with important jobs who engage in same-sex relations hide their lifestyles). Some "real men" violently prejudiced against non-real men, and may attack or rape them. (Former King Sihanouk once commented that "real men", not minorities, are the source of violence in society).[3]

Marriage and partnership recognition

In February 2004, the issue of gay rights in Cambodia was discussed by then King-Father Norodom Sihanouk. King Sihanouk wrote on his web site he was impressed by marriage of same-sex partners in San Francisco[4], and that if his people wished for gay marriage to be legalized in Cambodia, he would do so. King Sihanouk also stated that he believed that God views homosexuals, as well as transvestites, as equal because "[God loves] wide range of tastes".

Marriage in Cambodian society distinguishes between the religious ceremony, in which the union is blessed by monks in the presence of the community, and the formal registration of the union with the civil authorities. While the Constitution states that marriage is between a man and a woman,[5] same-sex marriage can still be officiated over in religious ceremonies. In one case of partnership recognition Khav Sokha and Pum Eth were married on March 12, 1995, in the village of Kro Bao Ach Kok, in Kandal Province, where they are from. Sokha said in an interview to the Phnom Penh Post, "The authorities thought it was strange, but they agreed to tolerate it because I have three children already (from a previous marriage). They said that if we were both single (and childless), we would not be allowed to get married because we could not produce children". Thus, it is a fully acknowledged marriage, with official approval, and there was not really any reaction to it. It was a popular event, with 250 people coming to the ceremony and partying, including Buddhist monks and high officials from the Province.(Juan Pablo Ordonez - May 1996)[6]

Same-Sex relationships and adoption

Same-sex relationships between women and between men are legal. There is no difference between laws governing homo- and heterosexual prostitution. Sex acts between same-sex partners are not defined as homosexuality.(Juan Pablo Ordonez - May 1996)[7]

In theory adoption by same-sex couples this is possible, but there are no recorded cases. However, many Cambodians would not find this a problem based on sexual orientation (a term unknown in Khmer). (Juan Pablo Ordonez - May 1996)[8]

Annual LGBT Pride Celebration

Cambodia's first ever LGBT Pride celebration was held in 2003 in the capital city of Phnom Penh. It is now a yearly event that openly celebrates the diversity of Cambodia. Once a taboo subject, there is an increasing acceptance for homosexuality among Cambodians. In 2006, about 400 Cambodians in the Gay and Lesbian communities came to support and celebrate Gay Pride.[9]

Societal attitudes towards homosexuality

The first ever Cambodian-made film depicting a homosexual relationship debuted in early 2009, going on to become a blockbuster in the country.[10]

See also


External links


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