Contributor : Heng Cheyleaphy
Program Team Manager at Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK)
After a year of deliberations, Cambodia LGBT+ community members launched the historical marriage equality campaign called “ខ្ញុំទទួលយក – I Accept” Campaign on 9th December 2021, in a garden of a hotel at the heart of Phnom Penh City. The campaign aims to advance legal marriage equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT+) couples in Cambodia. The campaign strives to raise more public awareness and acceptance of LGBT+ persons and contribute to advance the legal protection of marriage equality for LGBT+ couples, in line with Cambodian government’s commitment during the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The campaign was initiated by RoCK and supported by individuals and CSOs including Vuth Lyno, Artistic Director of Sa Sa Art Projects, Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA, Love is Diversity, Micro-Rainbow International Foundation-Cambodia, Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia, Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Gender and Development for Cambodia, and Just Associates South-East Asia.
Along with the International Human Rights Day celebration; one of RoCK’s annual events, “ខ្ញុំទទួលយក – I Accept” Campaign was launched in a Roundtable Dialogue among the LGBT+ community, their parents, local authorities, and senior representatives from the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The discussion was the follow up on the proposal to the government for establishing a multi-stakeholder working group to review and study relevant laws to enable legal marriage for same-sex couples, including Article 45 of the Cambodian Constitution, one of the third cycle UPR recommendations.
“It is so important to inform our government representatives and the public that just like everyone else, we LGBT+ couples want to marry the person we love, form our families, follow our Cambodian traditions; and be able to receive a marriage certificate so that our families can be equally recognized and protected by the law in the Kingdom of Cambodia,”Ms. Pisey Ly, Coordinator of RoCK.
The dialogue created an atmosphere of empathy and healing. The participants – LGBT+ community members, local authorities and national government officials – openly shared stories, challenges and possible pathways for enabling legal marriage and protection for LGBT+ couples.
“I could feel the deep emotion expressed by you [LGBT+ community members]. Despite the challenges my institution and I have, we will not let you feel lonely anymore.”H.E Mr. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee
After a day of deliberations, we enjoyed a cultural art event on 11th December which engaged some 250 people. We had contemporary dance, pop music and drag queens performances, Indadhanou Art installation, and a Rainbow Family Photo exhibition. Cambodian queer and straight artists supported each other, performed and showed talents, regardless of their SOGIESC. They contributed greatly to preserve and advance the Cambodian culture and arts. (event highlight video) From years of organizing LGBT+ public events, we can feel that the acceptance has increased. We saw positive attention, engagement and voices from supporters – local and national government officials, public, CSOs, embassies, and UN agencies during the event and on social media. Media increased their interests and coverages positively on legal marriage equality and the LGBT+ community. This progress was not just the result from the one-year preparation but it is the impact from ongoing building blocks of more than a decade, including the collaborative and concrete works of CSOs with evidence-based research on LGBT+ issues and needs for protection. Progress also stems from positive public remarks made by Prime Minister Hun Sen since 2012 and H.E. Mr. Keo Remy, President of CHRC since 2017, the ILGA-Asia Conference and the government’s commitment during the third cycle UPR recommendations on SOGIESC rights in 2019.
“Whenever I think back about the launching day, I get teary-eyed as I can see the green light from the government after many years of our community’s dedicated efforts.”Sorn Noeun, RoCK active member, who has been with RoCK since 2009
These positive results give the LGBT+ community hope and strength to continue their leadership and participation in advocacy and pursue campaigning for LGBT+ rights, such as “ខ្ញុំទទួលយក – I Accept” Campaign. A significant result that we must acknowledge and celebrate is the confidence, courage, clarity, and leadership of the LGBT+ community, proven through interviews with media and their well-spoken and active participation in the dialogue and public event. We can say we are visible with Pride. (key results the event)
For the next steps, we continue dialogue with the government relevant ministries, make recommendations to states and the UN for the UPR mid-term reporting process to follow up on the legal marriage equality, while building public acceptance and support through media, social media, cultural art platforms and events. The public can also support this campaign by sharing messages on LGBT+ rights and marriage equality with #ខ្ញុំទទួលយក #Iaccept and tag https://www.facebook.com/IacceptMEK. The information is also available on https://rockcambodia.org/iaccept/
RoCK is a Cambodian LGBT+ led organisation that works closely with LGBT+ communities and respective local authorities across the country to ensure long-term protection of equal rights and acceptance for LGBT+ people and their families. Since 2014 RoCK has successfully transitioned from a voluntary activist group to a professionally run organization. RoCK’s ultimate organizational goal is to become a membership-led organization.
About our contributor
Heng Cheyleaphy started working at Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) to promote LGBTIQ rights in Cambodia in 2015. She focuses on awareness raising and advocacy, including making recommendations on LGBTIQ rights for the UPR processes to key stakeholders such as local authorities, national government officials, CSO partners, media and the general public. Her interest is in the area of human rights, gender equality, social justice and arts. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Social Work from the Royal University of Phnom Penh.