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Dragonfly embraces gay drop-in centre

in CAMBODIA, 11/02/2011

The need for a safe place for gay and transgender people in Siem Reap as well as a lack of information has prompted the opening of a drop-in centre in February.

Dragonfly House manager Meghan Lewis said there were services for individual groups, such as gay men or lesbians, but no services which brought the groups together to discuss health issues.

She said there were several problems the gay and bisexual community faced in Siem Reap, including lack of access to information about sexual health and a lack of health services in general.

She said some transgender people felt uncomfortable going to the doctor, adding: “The GPs discriminate and a lot of people find that the doctors just laugh at them. For example, if transgender people present themselves as a male, they will feel uncomfortable. There is a lack of understanding from the GPs.”

She said another problem in Siem Reap was with police harassment.

“There was an incident last month where four transgender people were arrested and had their condoms taken from them. They look different and are arrested for reasons that can’t be explained.”

The Dragonfly House will initially be open from 9am to 5pm, and Lewis said the long-term goal was to have it open all the time and also to hopefully run a small café.

She said the centre would run workshops on different themes, such as rights, religion and sexuality.

“We will also provide some fun events, dancing classes and exercise classes. We will provide the space so that if someone has a talent or skill, they can share it.”

The idea of drop-in centres in Cambodia started after a study by the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance, assessing the needs and possible implementation of drop-in centres in Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, was published in 2006.

To contact Dragonfly House, please email Meghan on mlewis@khana.org.kh or phone 0636 689 900.

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