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Power of Young People Blog: Equal rights for all in sexual health

30 August 2016
Srun Srorn is an LGBTI activist. He is one of the founders of ASEAN Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression Caucus (ASC) and CamASEAN Youth’s Future. Currently, he is the Resource Person for CamASEAN Youth’s Future, working to protect the rights of the marginalized groups. In recognition of his contribution in bringing about change in perceptions towards sexuality and gender expression, UNFPA Cambodia awarded him the Power of Young People – Youth Champion Award in early 2016.

This blog article is written based on Srorn's personal views.

A lesbian woman is married off with her male cousin, as her parents believe that she will change after having a sexual relationship with a man. Prior to the marriage, she was beaten by her mother and sent to Kru Khmer (Cambodian traditional witch doctor) as if being a lesbian was some kind of disease.

A sex worker is raped and harassed by several men, but to whom will she tell her problem? With her status as a sex worker, people would neither believe her nor feel any sympathy for her. “After all, she is just a sex worker,” they would say.

If you were in such situations, what would you do? Who would you turn to?

These situations in fact are not far from our reality today. Those are real people that I have met. I have been working to empower them to speak up for themselves and advocate for their rights.

Sexual and reproductive health rights for everyone

The World Health Organization (WHO) defined sexual health as “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

From the definition, what do you think of the sexual health of the lesbian woman and the sex worker I described earlier? Not healthy, right?

Obviously, they are denied from their sexual health rights for the simplest reasons - their sexual expression/gender identity or job status.

Just like other marginalized groups, LGBTI people and sex workers often times are usually mistreated and discriminated by their community and even their own family. They are judged for how they live their lives.

Naturally we were all born naked. We did not carry our privilege or marginality with us from birth. So why does some of us receive different treatments and why do some people react differently towards particular groups? In fact, the marginalized groups do not need special laws or rights. They just need the same rights like other people based on their physical and psychological needs and conditions. Every human being has a right to life and be protected by law equally.

For example, every human being should be able to choose his/her life partner. Now just add a modifying clause. The human being who happens to be a lesbian, gay, bi, transgender or intersex should be able to choose his/her life partner. That modifying clause just gives more description of the noun, human being, but it does not change the fact that he or she is still a human being and therefore should have the same rights in choosing his/her life partner! Similarly, no one should experience rape or abuse. So why do you think it is okay for a sex worker to be abused? It is not!

Everyone was born free and equal. This means that each one of us was born with human rights; therefore, we all should be protected equally no matter who we are, what our sexual orientation or gender identity is, and whatever situation we are in.

Think big, start small

To advocate for the marginalized groups, we first must change our attitude towards them. It starts from you to break the taboo. Spread the words! Tell your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues that LGBTI people, entertainment workers, people with physical or mental challenges are no different than us. They do no harm to our community when education, opportunity and equal treatment are given.

Respect and be mindful of the words you use daily. Some of you may like to make fun of your friend who is less masculine, saying “You’re so gay” as if the word gay means less cool, less of a man, less of a human being to you. At some point, the passer-by may find your teasing words unwelcome and you might hurt their feeling unintentionally. What you can do is minimize the stereotypes and use instead the language that is inclusive and not offensive to anyone.

Lead by example. As we live in a fast-changing society, technology involves in almost every aspect our lives, but do not let it take you to nowhere. Instead use technology especially social media to spread love and positive development towards sexual reproductive health and rights and inspire others to do the same. You can​ be a change maker! You can join us on our social media pages:

·       CamASEAN Youth’s Future

·       International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) Cambodia

·       Women Network for Unity - WNU
WNU is a grassroots collective working on behalf of sex workers to advocate for their access to social services and freedom from violence & discrimination.

Start now! I mean RIGHT NOW! Together, we have to fight hard to advocate for the marginalized groups’ right until the marginalized becomes the new normal.