Tackling poverty and improving the rights of LGBTI people in Cambodia

Although homosexuality is not criminalised, LGBTI people in Cambodia are regularly abused and subjected to socio-economic exclusion by their family, community, employers, local authorities and the police. As a result the LGBTI citizens of Cambodia are more at risk of becoming, and remaining, poor.

According to the World Bank, 20% (400,000) of the 2 million people living in Phnom Penh do so below the poverty line. To make matters worse the gap in poverty reduction strategies is huge and development aid consistently fails to address LGBTI people. 

The many levels of discrimination endured by LGBT people, include: 

  • Rejection by their families and communities forces many to leave home and give up school
  • Abusive police often arrest gays and transwomen
  • Forced marriages of lesbians and transgender men
  • Little access to health services including sexual and reproductive health
  • Few job opportunities and discrimination in the workplace
  • Isolation and lack social safety nets
  • LGBT students and teachers are regularly removed from schools

MRI consulted with local LGBTI people and other stakeholders and piloted activities in Cambodia for over three years. MRI is now scaling its poverty reduction activities nationally. MRI’s poverty reduction programme include:

  • Facilitating micro-credit to impoverished LGBTI people 
  • Training on small business management and one to one mentoring 
  • Monthly peer support group meetings 
  • Lobbying and advocacy 

MRI’s poverty reduction programme is already showing three interesting results:

  • it creates new, practical and life changing opportunities (to improve skills, better chances to find jobs, to set up small businesses,) for LGBTI people to step out of poverty that do not exist locally for LGBTI people; it is instrumental in improving the livelihoods of many poor LGBTI people
  • it changes social attitudes and the negative stereotypes that Cambodian society associates with LGBTI people. In Cambodia society thinks that LGBTI people are destined to be homeless, poor and at the margin of society. However, MRI’s programme shows that when people start to earn some money and help the family and the community and society financially, their status improve and there is greater acceptance
  • it provides new data and life stories that are powerful tools for local advocacy for better rights

For more information, please contact MRI’s project manager.