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1 Feb 2012

Woman in Cambodia sentenced to 4.5 years jail for lesbian sex with 'minor'

Rights workers and members of Cambodia's nascent gay community say the case is an example of homophobia as a 20-year-old woman was sentenced to jail based on falsified documents submitted to the court identifying the "victim" as 14 years old.

A 20-year-old woman has been sentenced to four and a half years behind bars for having sex with her "underaged" girlfriend, the Phnom Penh Post reported last Thursday.

According to the report, Phlong Srey Rann maintained her innocence and claimed that the case against her had been concocted by her girlfriend’s family, who objected to their same-sex relationship.

The former factory worker was quoted as saying that on August 10, 2011, her girlfriend’s brother had filed a complaint that she was illegally detaining his sister. The police then arrested and accused the former of illegal detention and human trafficking, Phlong explained. 

In November, she was convicted in court of having sexual intercourse with a "minor" and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Phlong claims her girlfriend’s family had provided falsified documents to the court identifying their daughter as only 14 years old, making her only 13 when she started working at the factory as the pair had reportedly been together for more than a year. Cambodian labour law requires that factory workers be 18 or older.

A spokeperson from the shoe factory the pair worked at told the newspaper that it “only hires girls that are 18 and above” and a birth certificate and identification card was required for each employee.

Copies of Phlong’s girlfriend’s birth certificate and family book submitted to the factory and obtained by the Post show that she was born on March 9, 1992, which would make her 19 at the time of Phlong Srey Rann’s arrest. Cambodia does not have laws against same-sex relations.

Rights workers and members of Cambodia's nascent gay community say the case is an example of homophobia exacerbated by the country’s weak judicial system. Lim Matharon, the presiding judge in the case, could not be reached for comment. Chan Reasey Pheak, Phlong's court-appointed lawyer, told the paper she was no longer involved in the case and refused to comment.

Phlong reportedly plans to appeal the court's decision, but at this point has no lawyer and is more concerned about her family, who depended on her monthly wage of US$61.

Update (Feb 2, 2011): When contacted by Fridae, activist Srun Srorn of Rainbow community Kampuchea (RoCK) said the group is in contact with Phlong and is working with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to seek legal aid. Donations are not being sought at this time.


Reader's Comments

1. 2012-02-01 19:59  
It's also possible the family faked the girl's age as older, to get her the job. Either way, the family broke the law.

If the girl really was below the age of 19, then the 20 year old was misled by the girl, the family, and the factory as to her age, and did not have the necessary intent to commit the crime. It's unlikel ythe girl would have confessed her younger age to fellow workers.

The only other possibility is that the girl really is 19 as claimed.

In all scenarios, the defendant is obviously innocent.
2. 2012-02-01 20:43  
Obviously...except to the homophobic (bribed?) court. Another country on my not to visit list
3. 2012-02-01 21:52  
Talking of justice, today is 127 days, or 4 months and 5 days since the Court reserved judgement in Ravi's challenge to 377A, just on a procedural aspect. Just sayin' .
Comment #4 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-01 21:53
5. 2012-02-01 22:09  
Compare the approach of these courts in Asia, to those in homophobic African countries, where they ironically do more to protect gay people. Months before PMs and Presidents stood up for gay rights as human rights last year, the President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, made this speech in Uganda:

The other frontier of marginalization is the gay rights movement. Gay rights are human rights. Here I’m simply confining my statement to the context of human rights and social justice paradigm, and avoiding the controversy that exists in our constitutions and various legislation. As far as I know, human rights principles that we work on, do not allow us to implement human rights selectively. We need clarity on this issue within the human rights movement in East Africa, if we are to face the challenges that are spearheaded by powerful political and religious forces in our midst. I find the arguments made by some of our human rights activists, the so-called “moral arguments” simply rationalizations for using human rights principles opportunistically and selectively. We need to bring together the opposing viewpoints in the movement of this issue for final and conclusive debate."

I wish judges in all homophobic countries can be so upstanding.
6. 2012-02-01 22:59  
Poor girl. Tell me where to donate the money to help this girl's family.
Comment #7 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-01 22:59
8. 2012-02-02 02:13  
@6: I would rather donate so that she can appeal the court's decision!
9. 2012-02-02 09:08  
I would like to donate too- 20RM do matter I guess
10. 2012-02-02 10:15  
@8 agree with you...completely
11. 2012-02-02 14:01  
me too, i would like to donate every cent that i got from my massage services
12. 2012-02-03 10:08  
wam, shouldnt the girl's family be jailed instead of Phlong??
13. 2012-02-03 17:55  
One of the country tat I will nvr visit.
14. 2012-02-04 13:07  
I need to agree with Lee, Ive been to cambodia and feel like hell.

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