Cambodia may be the latest battleground regarding same-sex marriage. According to some LGBT rights activists in that nation, some local authorities are already recognizing gay couples as married despite the fact that the nation’s laws define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
According to Srorn Srun, the facilitator for Rainbow Community Kampuchea or RoCK “Some local authorities give marriage certificates to lesbian couples.”
Some local government leaders plan on sharing their experiences at an International Day Against Homphobia being organized by RoCK as part of Cambodia Pride Week. Specifically, the day will be held on 17 May.
Srorn knows of some fifteen lesbian couples who have already been issued marriage certificates in Kandal, Takeo, Prey Veng and Kampong Chhnang provinces. Srorn stated “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.”
Srorn also stated “In practice they are married. 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”.’
Srorn believes that the lesbian couples are more accepted due to living quiet lives in their hometowns. Srorn also noted that “Some of them said they have lived together since before the Khmer Rouge! It was really inspiring for the young people.”
RoCK, though, is not campaigning to legalize same-sex marriage as of this point and time. Srorn noted that “We actually don’t really want to advocate for legal marriage rights because our main problem is family acceptance. 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.”
Srorn recently completed research into the social exclusion of LGBT people in Cambodia and noted that “We found strong evidence that most of our friends are rejected by their families. 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.”