Affection and acceptance from family, surrounding community, and society are the wishes and hopes of the LGBTIQ+ community in Cambodia.
Since reaching maturity, Tuy Raksmey did not always feel like the other girls when it came to things like outfits and behaviour. She questioned why she was different from her peers and what it meant. Her sexual uncertainty became clear when she had her first crush on a female primary school classmate. Despite challenges and discrimination from her family, friends, and surrounding community, she decided to follow her heart and be herself. Later in life, Raksmey found a life partner and together they issued a public declaration in 2018.
As a communication assistant at Rainbow Community Kampuchea Organization (RoCK), a non-government organization supporting the LGBTIQ+ community, Raksmey (who now identifies as a man) spoke with Focus about the LGBTIQ+ community in Cambodia and the challenges they face every day.
Raksmey expressed his hopes for the equal rights of the LGBTIQ+ community and the end of discrimination from society.
What is LGBTIQ+ community?
The LGBTIQ+ community here refers to people who are attracted to the same sex or are unsure of their sexual orientation.
Lesbian: women who are attracted to women
Gay: men who are attracted to men; also used as a term for the LGBTIQ+ community at large
Bisexual: people who are sexually or romantically attracted to both genders, male and female
Transgender: people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sexuality assigned at birth
Intersex: people born with a combination of male and female biological traits
Queer: sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender
+: other orientations that do not necessarily fall under the other terms included here.
Does RoCK have data on the LGBTIQ+ community in Cambodia?
We do not have exact data on the community across the Kingdom; however, there are 2,000 people who consider themselves belonging to the LGBTIQ+ community and actively participate in the community’s activities, according to RoCK’s official data.
What are the challenges for the LGBTIQ+ community in Cambodia?
According a case study conducted by RoCK on sixty-one LGBTIQ+ people aged below 35 years in 2015 about perceptions and behaviors of surrounding community towards them, the main challenge for Cambodian people in the community is discrimination from family, school, the workplace, and legal sectors.
The study indicated that 81% are victims of mental abuse, as other people deny their sexual orientation and their family forces them to fulfill their family’s desires. Mental health issues here can be seen in the form of discriminatory comments, restrictions on outfits, marriage arrangements, or family banishment. The data also includes physical, financial, and sexual abuse.
79% of LGBTIQ+ community are discriminated against in school and the workplace, such as being laid off work due on their orientation, while 96% experience verbal abuse, according to data from the Cambodian Center For Human Rights (CCHR).
Legal discrimination refers to unequal rights and a lack of protection for the LGBTIQ+ community, such as same-sex marriage legalisation, adoption laws, IDs for a new gender, and anti-discrimination laws.
Do you think Cambodians are presently more open to the LGBTIQ+ community than in the past?
Based on the community’s collected information, Cambodian parents have become more open and accepting of their homosexual children, while the local authorities are protecting the LGBTIQ+ community. As well, support and encouragement from the Human Rights Committee, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the Ministry of Information are positive signs for the community. However, some families are still forcing their children to change who they are and form a family. Some other families abandon their children and kick them out of the house. The LGBTIQ+ community has mainly received questions about their identity and has been living with hatred from their surroundings.
Do you have suggestions for the public about the LGBTIQ+ community?
The LGBITQ+ community should not give up hope, appreciate their own identity, and continue to shape themselves into better people for their real value, as we are unable to cast ourselves out from society.
- Parents and everyone should open their heart to understand and accept who we are, as a family is a warm jacket in the winter season, and your support will complete our way of living and integration into society.
- The local authorities should accept and keep the LGBTIQ+ community safe; they can have equal and harmonious lives in surrounding communities.
- The press can use their platform to raise positive awareness about the LGBTIQ+ community, so society will see our value as human beings as well as provide us the opportunity to contribute to social development.
- Leaders should open their hearts and enact a protective law for the LGBTIQ+ community, avoiding discrimination and hatred from the public, as the law would be a shield to ensure our safety and provide us a chance to live with dignity and happiness.