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Witchcraft used against LGBTs in Cambodia

AAP logoAAP 17/11/2016 Ricardo Perez-Solero

Enchanted perfumes, sacred baths and burnings with incense are among the remedies adopted by sorcerers and witches when Cambodians seek to cut their children's or relative's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) ties.

Despite the growing tolerance towards people who identify as LGBT in Cambodia, many families are opposed to their children or family members having same-sex relations due to social prejudice or because it signifies not having descendants.

At the base of the White Mountain, near the southern Cambodian city of Kampot, a narrow path leads to the house of an old witch known as Lork Ta (meaning "hermit with magical powers").

Seated among decorative figures, candles and incense, the 93-year-old claims to have used spells to separate couples on thousands of occasions and to know several methods to get them to fall out of love.

One such method is to recite spells over a perfume, which has to be sprayed on the person to be targeted, and costs over $US100 ($A134), according to Lork Ta.

Lork Ta says the spell only makes them stop loving their partner, but after that, it is their choice whether or not to have relations with someone of the opposite sex.

Despite her warnings, Cambodian parents keep flocking to Lork Ta hoping that their children will change after the end of their relationship.

Poy Long, a lesbian, talked about being taken to several such witches when her parents did not approve of her relationship with a woman.

Although her parents accepted her when she made her sexual orientation known at the age of 16, they rejected her partner, treating her as if she were insane.

"Buddhism does not mention anything about LGBT. It is only about loving without discrimination," Poy lamented, referring to the country's state religion, which is followed by more than 90 per cent of the population.

After going to several witch sessions, Poy finally managed to get her parents to give up and stop influencing her life.

She believes there is currently more information and tolerance than a few years ago, although discrimination remains, and is stronger in rural areas, where 80 per cent of the population lives.

In Phnom Penh, there are several bars for the homosexual and transgender community, and last year, the first magazine for this group was launched.

Rodrigo Montero, an advisor on gender issues at the German agency on international development (GIZ) in Cambodia, said that in 2014 the Ministry of Women's Affairs for the first time included LGBT groups within its policies regarding gender violence.

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