Report:Trans Women Face Extreme Levels of Discrimination in Cambodia

Report: Trans Women Face Extreme Levels of Discrimination in Cambodia A group of trans people poses with civil society officials at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights headquarters in Phnom Penh, Sept. 21, 2016.
Pisey Sem/RFA

Transgender women face high levels of discrimination in Cambodia as nearly half have faced physical violence and one-quarter have been raped in a public place, according to a new Cambodian Center for Human Rights study released on Wednesday.

“Cambodian trans women face limited employment opportunities, rejection from their families and shocking levels of abuse and harassment from the police,” said   Nuon Sidara, coordinator of CCHR’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Project.

“The data point to an urgent need for the Royal Government of Cambodia to take immediate steps to safeguard the rights of trans women,” she added.

The report is based on the findings of CCHR’s field research, collected through 135 surveys conducted in April 2016 in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk and Battambang provinces.

According to CCHR’s report, 92 percent of the trans women surveyed have been verbally abused; 43 percent have experience physical violence; 31 percent have been sexually assaulted; and 25 percent have raped in public spaces.

Trans women also face extremely high levels of harassment and discrimination from the police, with nearly 40 percent of the respondents saying they had been arrested and 92 percent saying they believe that they were arrested due to their trans identity. Approximately one third of all respondents reported being wrongly accused of a crime.

The report also uncovered the previously unreported practice by some local police where trans women being publicly humiliated and forced to bathe in a river, in what CCHR says is an extra-legal punishment that may amount to torture under international human rights law.

Trans women also experience serious difficulty getting a job as more than one third of the respondents reported being refused employment and 25 percent reported being fired because of their trans identities.

Chhun Vy, a transgender woman volunteer with Men’s Health Cambodia, told RFA that she is used to being mocked and denied employment.

“It is very difficult for us because when we apply for a job they will not take us,” Chhun Vy said. “They deny us because we are transvestite or gay. Employers do not understand our feelings and our heart.”

The research also suggests that many families fail to understand and accept transgender family members after they come out.

Nearly half of the trans women responding to the survey they felt that the need to leave their family home because of their trans identities, and 53 percent of all respondents said their families attempted to force them to enter into a heterosexual marriage.

“Certain parents hate their children, do not want their children to become like that,” Chhun Vy said

Reported by Pisey Sem for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Wirtten in English by Brooks Boliek.

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