The country has seen significant progress in securing legal protections in recent years, participants said, though the fight for full equality remains an ongoing battle, LGBT activists said during a March 4 forum in the capital Phnom Penh .
“If you look at the nation’s legislative movement since 1989, the Kingdom has made progressive strides in protecting the rights of LGBT Cambodians,” said Dr Mark West, a senior legal adviser for East West Management Institute, according to the phnompenhpost.com.
Only three years ago, same-sex marriage was prohibited under Cambodian law.
“Marriage defined as between a man and a woman under that definition was struck down with the introduction of the Civil Code in 2011,” West explained, noting that the code doesn’t explicitly deny the possibility of adoption by couples in same-sex marriages.
But more definitive legislative amendments that safeguard equal rights for LGBT Cambodians are needed, Srorn Srun, a local LGBT activist told phnompenhpost.com.
“The constitution says that every Khmer citizen is equal before the law regardless of sex, but this is too broad. Gender identity norms need to be included if everyone is really equal under the law,” Srun said.
Gary Atkins, an international expert on LGBT law in Southeast Asia from Seattle University said truly stamping out discrimination will require the Kingdom’s legal experts and activists to continue talking.
“More LGBT Cambodians are being born every day in Phnom Penh, and if we want to secure a future where they feel safe, more laws are needed,” he said.
Homosexuality is legal when it involves private, non-commercial and consensual activities between adults but the Buddhist cultural tolerance of LGBT people has yet to advance LGBT-rights legislation. Harassment and discrimination still occurs and there is also intense social pressure to marry and raise a family.