Lesbians legally married in Cambodia despite no law change

Some lesbian women who have lived together for over ten years in some provinces in Cambodia could be the first legally recognized gay couples in Asia

Lesbians legally married in Cambodia despite no law change
06 May 2013

A Cambodian LGBT rights activist said that some local authorities in the southeast Asian nation already recognize gay couples as married.

‘Some local authorities give marriage certificates to lesbian couples,’ said Srorn Srun facilitator for Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) in a interview with Gay Star News.

Cambodian law defines marriage as between a man and a woman only but in some provinces in the country local government officials have decided to recognize gay couples.

Some of these local government leaders will share their experiences at an IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia) organized by RoCK as part of Cambodia Pride Week on 17 May.

There are 15 lesbian couples that Srorn knows have been issued marriage certificates in Kandal, Takeo, Prey Veng and Kampong Chhnang provinces.

‘After Pride Week my job is to visit more provinces and interview gay couples who been given family books from the local authorities, because when they give you a family book it means that they are officially, legally family.’

This means that lucky lesbian women are the first same-sex couples to be legally recognized in Asia.

‘In practice they are married,’ said Srun. ‘They have lived together for many years and the chief says "they live together for a long time already so we don’t mind, we accept them".’

Srun said he thinks lesbian couples are accepted more than gay couples because they are more likely to stay in their hometown and live quiet lives.

Last year on 10 December RoCK celebrated International Human Rights Day by inviting 76 couples who have lived together for 10 to 50 years to speak about their experiences.

‘Some of them said they have lived together since before the Khmer Rouge!’ said Srun. ‘It was really inspiring for the young people.’

The event was covered by the media and the next day the prime minister of Cambodia Hun Sen said there should be ‘no discrimination against’ gays and lesbians. Srun said he thinks the media coverage of the event inspired the prime minister to speak out.

But RoCK are not campaigning to legalize marriage for all gay couples in Cambodia.

‘We actually don’t really want to advocate for legal marriage rights because our main problem is family acceptance,’ said Srun.

‘This is the most important thing, because we have lots of rules and laws that are controlled by our parents in our culture. For now we want to encourage people to come out and for families to understand us.’

Srun has recently completed a piece of research looking at the social exclusion of LGBT people for the government.

‘We found strong evidence that most of our friends are rejected by their families,’ said Srun. ‘And when we cannot live within the family we lose out on education and then if we have little education we face unemployment or low paid jobs. And then we are vulnerable to becoming sex workers or drug users.’

Cambodia Pride Week will run from 12 to 19 May. With a coming out workshop, a sports day, a blessing ceremony from Buddhist monks and for the first time a tuk tuk parade.

Last year RoCK felt that a parade would be too politically sensitive, but this year they plan to go public by decorating 20 to 30 tuk tuks with rainbow flags and slogans and to parade them through the streets.  



No thumbnail available

Gay man hangs himself in Kenya

One of the last text messages a young gay man sent to his friends was a request to be 'buried nicely'
No thumbnail available

Pink power in Hong Kong

The creator of a new app that harnesses LGBT spending power in Hong Kong talks to Gay Star News
No thumbnail available

Norway Prime Minister supports church gay weddings

Several people are outraged and choosing to leave the Church of Norway over their 'lack of understanding' on religious same-sex marriage
No thumbnail available

Second masseur suing Travolta would settle for a discount

Male masseur suing actor for $2million said he would settle with a 90% discount
No thumbnail available
No thumbnail available

AFA’s Bryan Fischer urges people to call gay marriage ‘sodomy based marriage’

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has encouraged opponents of same-sex marriage to embrace the term sodomy in their campaigns – saying it is an ugly word for ugly things
No thumbnail available

Trans character comes out to boyfriend on dramatic episode of The Bold and the Beautiful

He tells her: 'I just know that I love you and I want to spend my life with you'
No thumbnail available

Texas Democrats oppose ‘ex-gay’ therapies after Republicans endorse them

The Texas state Democratic Party has slammed Texas state Republicans for endorsing so-called reparative therapies that aim to turn people from gay to straight at the party’s state convention
No thumbnail available
No thumbnail available

LGBTI ally Patrick Stewart backs bakery in 'gay cake' row

'I support their rights to say no, this is personally offensive to my beliefs'