In 1996 The Phnom Penh Post reported on a 1995 marriage between two women in Kandal province. Khav Sokha, who married her partner, another woman named Pum Eth, told the newspaper: “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.” The marriage appeared to have official approval and was reportedly a popular event, with 250 attendees, including Buddhist monks and high officials from the province.
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the “Constitution”) is the supreme law of Cambodia; all other laws must be consistent with the constitutional principles and guarantees it sets out. Article 31 of the Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens regardless of personal characteristics, stating:
“Every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law, enjoying the same rights and freedoms and fulfilling the same obligations regardless of race, color, sex…or other status.”
Article 35 guarantees the right of all Khmer citizens, regardless of sex, to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation. Though there is no explicit mention of sexual orientation in these provisions it can be implied that they extend to LGBT individuals as the intent is to ensure equality regardless of personal characteristics.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Cambodia, but same-sex marriage is prohibited. Article 45 of the Constitution explicitly defines marriage as an agreement between a husband and wife, and this traditional conception of marriage is confirmed by the Law on Marriage and the Family, which states in Article 3 that “marriage is a solemn contract between a man and a woman,” and in Article 6 that a marriage shall be prohibited between a person whose sex is the same sex as the other. Despite these unequivocal legal provisions, at least one same-sex marriage has taken place in Cambodia with the support and acceptance of local authorities.