Study Details KR Abuse of Transgender People

The study, carried out by Kasumi Nakagawa, a Japanese professor of gender studies at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, contains interviews with 48 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, uncovering for the first time the sexual and emotional abuse inflicted on sexual minorities under the Pol Pot regime and fills an important gap about Gender Based Violence during the Khmer Rouge Regime.


Sexual Violence Against Ethnic Minorities During the Khmer Rouge Regime

Recently, the Cambodian Defenders Project published a research report authored by Dr Rochelle Braaf on sexual violence against ethnic minorities during the Khmer Rouge regime.

The report documents the crimes of sexual violence experienced or witnessed by ethnic Vietnamese, Khmer Krom and Khmer Island and Cham survivors of the Khmer Rouge era, and concludes that the research findings indicate that ethnic minorities were particularly targeted by the Khmer Rouge for sexual violence crimes.

Click here to view the report.

Comments in Response to International Co-Prosecutor’s Supplementary Submission in Case 004 Requesting the Investigation of Sexual or Gender-Based Violence

By Silke Studzinsky, Former International Counsel for Civil Parties before the ECCC, 31 May 2013

Recently, the International Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian requested the Co-Investigating Judges to investigate sexual violence in Case 004, which encompasses forced marriage and other forms of sexual violence outside of the context of forced marriages.  Continue reading

Comments in Response to the Inclusion of Sexual Crimes in Case 002/2

By Silke Studzinsky, Former International Counsel for Civil Parties before the ECCC

The new severance order determining the scope of the case 002/02 eventually gives victims of sexual crimes a voice. This is coming late. These crimes could and should have already been part of case 002/01. Nevertheless, the victims of these crimes welcome this step very much.

  • The huge number of civil parties admitted because of the crime of forced marriage are now becoming part of this trial. They represent the second biggest group of civil parties in case 002.
  • In addition, the victims of forced marriage who did not apply as civil parties will benefit from the inclusion of forced marriage as a crime against humanity, which was committed countrywide.
  • This is a late but crucial recognition that this policy is more than only about marriage: It is a crime. It is rape, ordered through a third party, sexual enslavement and, forced marriage as another inhuman act. It violates the right to sexual self-determination of many, many Cambodian women and men and the right to freely choose a spouse. Until today, this crime has a huge impact on Cambodian society as a whole, on the direct victims and their families and communities, on the children born within these marriages and their children.
  • It is noteworthy that the Trial Chamber also included into the scope of the next trial the few rape incidents outside of the context of forced marriage. This is an important step forward. Still, according to the Co-investigating Judges, the accused are not to be held liable for these rapes because the accused allegedly prosecuted or/and punished the perpetrators although the evidence demonstrates the contrary. Nevertheless, these facts are now before the Trial Chamber in case 002/02 and will now be legally characterized.
  • The legal characterization of these rapes will be another challenge in this case. The Trial Chamber departed from its previous conclusions in the judgment in case 001 and considers now that these rapes may qualify “only” as other inhumane acts under crimes against humanity and not as rape as a listed crime.

To conclude, the new severance order concerning sexual crimes is promising but requires still a committed engagement to achieve a full reflection of the gravity and seriousness of sexual crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge.

The Civil Parties are very proud that both forced marriages and rapes outside the context of forced marriage are included into case 002/02.

Only through them and their strong commitment, these crimes became part of the proceedings.

Silke Studzinsky

The Hague, The Netherlands, 8 April 2014



“Many of My Family Have Changed Their Minds About Me Now” – Interview with SOU Sotheavy

Sou Sotheavy was recently awarded the David Kato Vision and Voice Award in Germany for her work in advocating LGBT rights. The 74-year-old tells us about surviving the Khmer Rouge, living with HIV and her dreams for equality in Cambodia

Interview by: Amanda Saxton   Photography by: Thomas Cristofoletti

Originally published: South East Asia Globe, 8 April 2014

How did you feel being awarded the David Kato prize? 

I have always worked from my heart without thinking to be paid or so publicly recognised. It was a big surprise. After I got the prize many people were trying to call me. They were so surprised to see me win. It was a shock to Cambodia that the rest of the world could accept me. So the prize really changed some people’s minds.


Hard life: transgender activist Sou Sotheavy grew up with 15 siblings and ran away from her family at age 14, becoming a prostitute soon after. Photo: Thomas Cristofoletti for SEA Globe

How will you spend your prize money? 

It will go towards changing the law and helping transgender people who are in trouble. But the publicity from the prize was more important than the money.

How was your time in Germany?

There wasn’t any culture shock – I’ve already been to 28 countries, from Switzerland to Mexico to Hong Kong. But I don’t like eating that heavy food. The hotel was wondering why I was always just drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.

At the awards ceremony they normally only allow ten minutes for a speech, but they asked me to speak for one hour about my life and what I have done. Many were crying by the end, and I felt very moved by their compassion.

Tell us about your early life. 

I had a very hard time during the Pol Pot regime. They would punish me for being different, using rape and torture. This was very hurtful for my life and I will never forget it. Even though I have success now, I am still not 100% happy. My family life was very hard too, and I didn’t have a chance to go to school. Some of my relatives and other people didn’t think well of me because of my character. Many of my family have changed their minds about me now though – not 100%, but 50%.

What’s a typical day like for you now?

Twelve hours every day I’m doing social work. I’m always cycling around because I don’t have a big office. I actually prefer to serve the community in the community and to use money to directly help people instead of building offices. I also enjoy cycling along – I find it releases stress.

In each of eight provinces I have one director and one assistant. They are volunteers without a salary. Normally I hear about problems in bars or on the streets. Maybe a foreigner hit the girls in a bar, or something gets stolen on the street, or there’s fighting. As soon as I hear about this, no matter what time, I rush to help them. My latest mission is to focus on girls who are half boy [hermaphrodites]. Most of them are very discouraged and want to commit suicide. I’m working in Kratie with someone like this and am encouraging her to have an operation so she can have sex.

Who is Sou Sotheavy when she’s at home?

I have a secret boyfriend, who is only 24. I haven’t shown him to anyone. He’s divorced and has a little boy with him. I treat the boy like my son. If my boyfriend wants to leave me to get married and have a family with another woman, I’ll understand and support him. Our future is up to him.

I also have HIV but I don’t take any medicine. In Germany they tried to encourage me to take medicine but I don’t want to become dependent on it. India wanted to sponsor me with medication too, but I declined. I went to the hospital and the doctor said my health is strong enough for the time being. If I take the medicine I’m afraid I’ll get used to it and be unable to handle changes. I have heard some people have died from that.

What is your ultimate life goal?

I want the government to make a new law that allows LGBT people to marry and be accepted in the workplace. As long as I reach my goal of marriage and acceptance for LGBT people, I will die happy. This is my last goal. If I can reach it maybe all of the pain will go away. If not, I might die in pain.