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LGBTIQ Community Reiterates Call for Protections against Discrimination

A woman reads a biography of LGBTIQ community members, displayed at a photo exhibition during a report launch at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Phnom Penh, on Dec. 9, 2019. (Kann Vicheika/VOA Khmer)

Members of the LGBTIQ community on Monday asked the Cambodian government to legislate protections against discrimination, coinciding with a report released by a rights group which shows that a fifth of respondents saying they had been rejected a job because of their identity.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights organized a photo exhibition on Monday called “My Voice My Rights”, featuring women human rights defenders and activists from the Gay Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) community.

The rights group also released a report that revealed members of the LGBT community routinely faced discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). This had led to 25 percent of respondents to hide their SOGIE during a job interview for fear of losing out on the opportunity.

Noun Sidara, gender and identity project coordinator at CCHR, said the lack of legislative protections was one of the reasons the community was discriminated against by people around them, including at home and at work.

“If there was no discrimination, [members of the community] would have the same rights in the workplace and schools, particularly helping to prevent domestic violence from their parents,” Noun Sidara said.

Activists at the event pointed out that the community faced hurdles to access higher education and wanted legislation to push for marriage equality.

Chhun Monyvichera, who identified as lesbian, said the discrimination against community members was making it hard to access opportunities and express themselves freely.

“I want to see legal protections for the LGBTIQ community, so they can do just about anything if they are capable,” Chhun Monyvichera said.

Chhun Monyvichera said it was time the government also ensured marriage equality for all citizens.

March Sotheary, deputy director at the Gender Equality Department for the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said that despite no legislative protections, discrimination against the LGBTIQ community was “limited.”

“In Cambodia, despite not having a separate law, the discrimination against LGBT [community] is limited,” March Sotheary said.

“This means that they can marry. While the law doesn't acknowledge it, we don't restrict their rights to marry.”