Cambodia LGBTIQ people celebrate identity, hope for acceptance


Author: Sreynich Leng

Sen Sok, Cambodia — With music and dance, Cambodian LGBTIQ people have held a festive celebration that they hope will help ease the discrimination against them.

Choung Veasna, left, and Chamroeun Dara, of Prum Sodun Ok & NATYASARA, perform a classical dance on the opening day of Cambodia Pride Week. Photo: UN Women/Leng Sreynich

About 100 LGBTIQ people joined the opening day of Cambodia Pride Week, held on 12 May at this small community on the outskirts of Phnom Penh to promote LGBTIQ rights at the community level.

They were joined by LGBTIQ and civil society groups, businesspeople, and representatives of United Nations agencies including UN Women, one of the 22 organizations that organized the event.

LGBTIQ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer. The event was Cambodia’s 14th annual LGBTIQ Pride celebration, and was organized around the International Day against Homophobia and Trans-phobia. Participants sought to raise awareness on LGBTIQ issues, share information with LGBTIQ families and local communities, and advocate for LGBTIQ legal and social recognition and an end to discrimination.

The event used art to celebrate diversity and share messages of non-discrimination. Performances included educational short stories on LGBTIQ rights, a catwalk fashion show and traditional Khmer music played by a transgender man. Members of a gay dance company, Prum Sodon Ok & NATYARASA, performed a traditional Apsara dance, which is normally performed only by women.

Chhum Vy poses in front of the LGBTIQ flag at a Cambodia Pride Week event on 17 May. Photo: UN Women/Leng Sreynich

Among those performing at the event was transgender woman Chhum Vy, 29, a movie and music video actress known publicly as Seav Longny, she also is a leader of the LGBTIQ network of Bandanch Chaktomok. Chhum Vy said the event was her “second birthday”, a celebration of the rights of LGBTIQ people to come out without facing any discrimination. The celebration not only encouraged and educated LGBTIQ people, but also people in the community, she said.

“Because there were many good and funny performances, community people were entertained, and I think this helps them understand our feelings and our situation, which will reduce discrimination against LGBTIQ people,” Chhum Vy said.

“I think this event was very useful, and it helped me to learn so many things,” said transgender woman Iem Rayuth, a 23-year-old factory worker. “For example, if I want to go out with a guy, I must know how to protect myself.”

Messages are displayed at booths on the opening day of Cambodia Pride Week in Sen Sok. Photo: UN Women/Leng Sreynich

Wan-Hea Lee, Country Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told participants at the event that people have the right to be who they are regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. She said Cambodia still has some work to do in helping to protect LGBTIQ people.

LGBTIQ people in Cambodia “might not be actively persecuted as they are elsewhere, but they are also not embraced”, she said. “They should be protected by anti-discrimination legislation.”

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