Rainbow Community Kampuchea Organisation (RoCK): Our Journeys towards Marriage Equality

By June 18, 2021 Advocacy, Newsroom, Regional

Ly Pisey
Rainbow Community Kampuchea Organisation (RoCK)

“At RoCK’s annual events such as Pride/IDAHOTB andInternational Human Rights Day, RoCK members and local authorities mentionedthe social and legal obstacles hindering official same- sex marriage. Those challenges are a lack of recognition and protection of their families,including joint property titles, social protection schemes and benefits for their children.”

Ly Pisey, Coordinator, Rainbow Community Kampuchea Organisation (RoCK)

Marriage equality has been prioritized by the LGBT community, in an environment where 45% of the general population are in favor of LGBT as opposed to 43%, with 12% being neutral (TNS & Rainbow Community Kampuchea, 2015). Of the 43% not in favor, it was found that 29% of them were neutral and supported legalizing same-sex marriages nonetheless. Furthermore, of the 22% of the general population who were initially neutral, 70% responded as being either neutral or in support of same-sex marriages as sanctioned by law.

Beyond this baseline survey conducted across eleven provinces, RoCK has organized Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) and Human Rights workshops since 2016, working with 678 local authorities in Phnom Penh and in 23 provinces, of which representatives from village, commune and district levels attended.

According to Vinh and Sao (2018), post-workshop research found that 97% of local authorities came to believe and understand that LGBT people are natural, and all participants agreed that LGBT rights are human rights. By comparing the baseline in 2015 with the post-workshop research in 2018, 54%, of which included local authorities, have changed their opinions and behaviors towards LGBT people as a result of RoCK SOGIESC and Human Rights workshops.

At RoCK’s annual events such as Pride/IDAHOTB and International Human Rights Day, RoCK members and local authorities mentioned the social and legal obstacles hindering official same- sex marriage. Those challenges are a lack of recognition and protection of their families, including joint property titles, social protection schemes and benefits for their children. As a result, RoCK has developed the Declaration of Family Relationship (DoFR) 1 in consultation with the community, local authorities and lawyers (RoCK, 2020). DoFR has been accepted by local authorities in 68 communes of 20 provinces and so far registered 23 LGBT couples.

In the past two decades, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has shown a growing acceptance of LGBT people. At the 2017 ILGA-Asia Conference hosted by RoCK in Phnom Penh, the President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee attended and showed support in eliminating discrimination against LGBT people in the Kingdom. Significantly, top leaders such as the late King Sihanouk called for the support of same-sex marriage in 2004, and the Prime Minister announced publicly to not discriminate against LGBT people. Furthermore, the government has shown the commitment to support LGBT people and ending discrimination during the IHRD and Pride & IDAHOTB ceremonies of 2012 and from 2018 to present.

In 2019, the RGC accepted all nine recommendations of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to which RoCK and the SOGIESC coalition had jointly submitted reports from seven states on SOGIESC for the first time. These recommendations included legal marriage, gender identity recognition and anti-discrimination for LGBT people. In consultation with the UPR coalition on SOGIESC-SRHR in 2020, it was agreed that RoCK is to lead the advocacy for legal recognition and protection of marriage equality for LGBT people.

With these extensive works and achievements of RoCK and allies at local, national, and global levels, RoCK therefore continues collaborating and having dialogues with the RGC, recommending states, and relevant stakeholders on national legal frameworks and comparative legal analysis of other countries, including Taiwan. The strategy workshop on marriage equality organised by APCOM in late 2018 created the opportunity for RoCK to connect with other CSOs, in order to exchange experiences and support legal advocacy processes in Cambodia.

(1)   DoFR is a private contract form that RoCK has designed for rainbow couples’ use as immediate and temporary evidence-based documentation of intimate/civil partnership relationships in the lack of legal marriage for same-sexcouples.

About our contributor

My name is Pisey, a co-founder and Coordinator of RoCK. I am a feminist and a lesbian. I have been working with grassroots groups and organisations since I was a student because I learned so much and believe deeply in the collective power of the marginalised and underprivileged people to make transformation and create an equal, equitable and just society. 

RoCK envisions a just and equitable Cambodia where LGBT Cambodian citizens live full and meaningful lives, are embraced by their families, communities, and government officials—by all sectors of society—with acceptance, dignity, and respect. We wish and work for LGBT Cambodian citizens to take joy and pride in who they are, and for them to lead healthy and productive lives that elevate Cambodian and global society. An active, committed voluntary group since 2009, RoCK registered as an NGO in February 2014—the first LGBT advocacy organization in Cambodia. RoCK has started an exciting new journey as we transition from a voluntary activist group to a professionally- run organization, with a key goal of evolving into a membership-led organization. Today RoCK has about 2000 members across 25 provinces and several cities in Cambodia.

Stories of Marriage Equality Movement in the Region

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