Legal Recognition of LGBT Families Essential for Social Integration

A UN expert concluded that legal recognition of Cambodian LGBT families is key to ensure full social integration after a 10-day visit to the country
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, (left), UN Independent Expert. Kiripost via UN
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, (left), UN Independent Expert. Kiripost via UN

Authorities are being urged to legally recognise LGBT families to ensure social integration, a UN expert concluded after a 10-day visit to Cambodia.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, noted that while the country is striding towards full integration of LGBT people in society, legal recognition is key to achieve full integration.

Madrigal-Borloz made the comments after a 10-day tour of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang to speak with the LGBT community and understand any human rights’ issues.

“Without exception, State agents with whom I held conversations acknowledged that diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity was a trait inherent to humankind, and that all Cambodian citizens, including members of the LGBT community, were valued members of society who have the right to live in freedom and equality,” Madrigal-Borloz said.

“Before and during my visit I did not receive any information of massive or systematic physical violence against the people with whom I spoke, or persons known by them. I also note that Cambodia does not have legislation that explicitly criminalises sexual orientation or gender identity. This gave me an encouraging point of departure.”

During his visit, Madrigal-Borloz met with authorities at national and provincial levels, civil society organisations and more than 100 LGBT people, who shared their life experiences with him.

After his trip, the independent expert concluded that violence and discrimination against LGBT people start within the family and spill over to life in school, work and accessing health services.

He noted that a lack of data makes it difficult to analyse challenges faced by LGBT people, and how to design and implement measures to address these issues. Madrigal-Borloz recommended adopting a series of measures, including surveys and data collection, and said involving concerned communities and civil society organisations in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policy should form a key part to these measures.

After hearing the testimonies, the UN expert said local communities regard legal recognition of their families as essential to social inclusion.

“I encourage the State to make swift progress on this agenda, advanced by Cambodian communities with clear points of reference in the realities of their lives and needs, guided by the three principal commitments that Cambodia is considering since 2019: the recognition of LGBT families through the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, the legal recognition of gender identity, and the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation,” Madrigal-Borloz said.