Landmark report on LGBT rights in Cambodia presents facts, experiences and recommendations

For Immediate Release

Thursday, August 7, 2014

PHNOM PENH – Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Cambodia continue to face abuse and discrimination at home, at school, in the workplace and in the media. LGBT rights advocates are calling protection from ill treatment and for equal opportunities, according to the first comprehensive report of its kind released today.

The report, entitled ‘Being LGBT in Asia: The Cambodia Country Report’ on LGBT rights in Cambodia, provides an overview of the LGBT rights in Cambodia related to laws and policies, social and cultural attitudes, religion, family affairs, education and schooling, work and employment, community and society, health, media and recommendations for the future.

This country report is a product of a broader initiative, ‘Being LGBT in Asia’, which was launched in December 2012. It is a first regional Asia-wide learning activity carried out with Asian grassroots LGBT organizations and community leaders alongside the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In Cambodia, it has additionally partnered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). With a focus on eight countries – Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the initiative examines LGBT lived experiences from a development and rights  perspective.

According to the report’s author, Vicente Salas, “Cambodia is a neutral country for LGBT persons: neither punitive nor positively affirming”. While LGBT behaviour is not criminalized in Cambodia, as it is elsewhere, Cambodian laws and policies are also silent about LGBT persons and rights, the report notes. There is no anti-discrimination legislation or sanctions for those who violate the rights of LGBT persons, or reference to inheritance, tax or family rights facing LGBT persons.

Many LGBT persons reported rejection by their families, or subjection to such treatment as forced marriages, attempted ‘cures’ for being LGBT, and mental and physical abuse. Such treatment prompted many LGBT persons to run away, or resulted in psychological issues including depression and increased suicidal tendencies.

“This report highlights many legal and policy opportunities for national and local governments to work together to better protect and empower Cambodia's LGBT community,” said United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Rebecca Black. “Supportive laws to combat discrimination that are implemented and well understood at the community level will enable LGBT persons to fully participate in social activities and contribute greatly to the development of Cambodia”, she added.

In her remarks, the OHCHR Representative in Cambodia, Wan-Hea Lee, cited a 2011 global study conducted by OHCHR, according to which, “83 countries still criminalize LGBT behavior, seven countries have a death penalty for same sex relations; fewer than 50 countries punish anti-gay discrimination in full or in part and only 19 countries have banned discrimination based on gender identity. There is clearly much that needs to be done,” she said, adding, “I look forward to seeing the report used by all, to cure the problem, not the people.”

About the ‘Being LGBT in Asia’ Initiative

‘Being LGBT in Asia: A Participatory Review and Analysis of the Legal and Social Environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Civil Society’ is a joint initiative undertaken by the USAID Regional Development Mission Asia and UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre together with grassroots LGBT organizations and community leaders to understand the challenges faced by LGBT persons in Asia. The initiative promotes understanding of the challenges LGBT persons face in terms of stigma and discrimination and steps toward LGBT-inclusive development within USAID, UNDP and development partners through research reports and multimedia products. In Cambodia, the initiative has partnered with OHCHR country office.

To read the full report, please visit,

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