Recognition of same-sex unions in Cambodia

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Legal status of same-sex unions
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Currently, Cambodia does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, but does recognize a limited form of recognition ("declaration of family relationship"), which as of May 2018 is only available in 50 communes. Same-sex marriage has received support from many important figures and government organisations, including King Norodom Sihamoni, former King Norodom Sihanouk, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Women's Affairs and many legislators and political parties.[1]

Cambodia's Constitution defines marriage as a union between "one husband and one wife".

A 2015 report found that a majority of Cambodians are in favour of the legalisation of same-sex marriage.


The Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), with the help of local authorities, has created a formal relationship registry program, called the "Declaration of Family Relationship" (Khmer: សេចក្តីថ្លែងទំនាក់ទំនងគ្រួសារ; French: déclaration de vie commune). According to RoCK, "the Declaration of Family Relationship is a civil contract between two people who are willing to be together and share responsibility taking care of the family, children and distribute the joint asset, as legal spouses do". By May 2018, the civil contract had been introduced to 50 communes in 15 provinces, and 21 couples had signed the forms.[2][3]

Same-sex marriage[edit]


Same-sex sexual activity legal
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Foreign same-sex marriages recognized
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Restrictions on freedom of expression
Same-sex sexual activity illegal
  Not enforced or unclear
  Life in prison
  Death penalty

In September 1993, the Cambodia Constituent Assembly, a special body elected in 1993, drafted a constitution for Cambodia. This Constitution defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In 2007, the Civil Code was amended by defining marriage as a union between "one husband" and "one wife".[4] The provision in the Constitution related to marriage was similarly modified in 2011 and reads as follows:[5]

Marriage shall be conducted according to conditions determined by law based on the principle of mutual consent between one husband and one wife.

Case of one marriage[edit]

There is one recorded case of a legally valid same-sex civil marriage contraction in Cambodia. Khav Sokha and Pum Eth were married on March 12, 1995, in the village of Kro Bao Ach Kok, in Kandal Province, where they are from. Sokha said in an interview to the Phnom Penh Post, "The authorities thought it was strange, but they agreed to tolerate it because I have three children already (from a previous marriage). They said that if we were both single (and childless), we would not be allowed to get married because we could not produce children". Thus, it is a fully acknowledged marriage, with official approval, and there was not really any reaction to it. It was a popular event, with 250 people coming to the ceremony and partying, including Buddhist monks and high officials from the province.[6]

In February 2018, a dual Cambodian-French same-sex couple attempted to marry in the town of Kratié. Police prevented the wedding ceremony from taking place and arrested the couple.[7]

Support from public figures[edit]

After witnessing same-sex marriages being performed in San Francisco in 2004, King Norodom Sihanouk expressed support for legalizing such unions in Cambodia.[8] Current King Norodom Sihamoni has also expressed support for same-sex marriage.[9]

Following the enactment of the Constitution of Nepal in September 2015, several government organisations and spokespeople made positive comments on same-sex marriage and/or partnerships. The Ministry of Interior announced the possibility to push for the legalization of same-sex marriage.[1] The Ministry of Women's Affairs incorporated rights to same-sex relationships in its second National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women 2014-2018.[1] Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan expressed support for the LGBT community and said "Cambodian society does not discriminate against LGBT people. It is only individuals who do so. No Cambodian laws discriminate against them, and nothing is banning them from loving each other or getting married".[10] The Cambodian Government also expressed a welcome reaction to the Nepal Constitution, saying there was a possibility for same-sex marriages to be passed as a law.[4]

In May 2017, at a LGBT round table event, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) announced it would hold a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage, if elected. The Khmer National United Party (KNUP) said they would consider legalising same-sex marriage, if they win the 2018 election. Other parties that announced their support of same-sex marriage include FUNCINPEC, the League for Democracy Party (LDP) and the Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP). The ruling party, the Cambodian People's Party, said they had no plans to legalise same-sex marriage, but would consider it if a formal request was made.[11][12]

Shortly after the Taiwanese Constitutional Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, 43 civil society groups and trade unions called on the Government to legalise same-sex marriage in Cambodia.[13]

Public opinion[edit]

In 2015, TNS Cambodia conducted a survey focused on the opinions and attitudes towards LGBT people in Cambodia. The sample was 1,563 people, from 10 different provinces.[nb 1] 1,085 identified as straight and 478 identified as LGBT. 60% lived in rural areas, 24% in urban areas and 16% in semi-urban Phnom Penh.

Support for same-sex marriage was 38% among straight people, while 42% were opposed and 20% were neutral. Among LGBT people, 94% expressed support for same-sex marriage: from 96% among transgender women to 89% among gay men. 3% of LGBT people expressed opposition.

In total, 55% were in favour of same-sex marriage, 30% were opposed and 15% were neutral. The most frequent reasons for approval were "human rights" and "it is in their [LGBT people] nature", whereas opponents cited "against Khmer values and traditions" and "against human nature" as their most frequent reasons for disapproval.[14]


  1. ^ These provinces were Phnom Penh (291), Kampong Cham (354), Siam Reap (201), Kampot (152), Battambang (147), Kandal (146), Ratanakiri (104), Pursat (53), Prey Veng (46), Svay Rieng (38) and Kampong Chhnang (31).

See also[edit]