Discrimination of LGBTI people causes poverty
The ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) is an annual regular forum of CSOs in ASEAN member states to share and discuss issues and to make recommendations to ASEAN governments. This year we went to Malaysia to share the issues that LGBT people face in Cambodia, including the root causes of poverty (bullying at school, employment discrimination, family rejection, and etc.), and to share our poverty reduction project amongst LGBT in Cambodia.
We feel that Cambodia today is more open to LGBT people also thanks to the media and social media, which are more supportive than in the past and often portray LGBT issues positive way. However LGBT people still face some serious barriers and threats to their well-being, such as freedom of expression, violence, discrimination and rejection by families, schools, in the workplace and in accessing public places and services.
If you are LGBT and you come out, it is likely that your family will force you “to change”, to become straight. They will try to stop any relationship you might have with a partner and if you oppose they will kick you out of the home, cut all your ties with the family, or they will force you to get married with someone of the opposite sex.
LGBT people face severe discrimination at school. They are bullied by other students and the teachers punish them if they wear clothes that do not conform to their biological gender. It is therefore common for LGBT people to drop out of school, and the consequent lack of education will impact their ability to earn an income for the rest of their lives.
In order to tackle the discrimination and the situation of poverty faced by LGBTI people in Cambodia, CamASEAN has been raising awareness of LGBT rights, sexual orientation and gender identity issues with civil society organizations, students, government officials and institutions. We also cooperate with Micro Rainbow to address poverty reduction in Cambodia among LGBTI people. With MRI we provide loans and technical support to LGBTI people in poverty who want to set up a small business to improve their livelihood.
Poverty reduction issues were visibly on the agenda of this year’s ASEAN Civil Society Conference: we were speakers on panels and had interesting discussions with participants in the LGBT workshop who were particularly enthusiastic because it is a new project in ASEAN. We have also have exchanged ideas about poverty reduction of LGBT people at events like the Booth Exhibition and ASEAN Walk, and with LGBT activists and ASEAN activists in the ACSC/APF 2015 Malaysia.