health education in the kingdom

As an educated gay white man I am frequently approached by Cambodian women & men of all ages who trust me to answer questions about health, hygiene, nutrition, medicine, and science. Thankfully for them, I do know what I am talking about, but Heaven help anybody over here who must rely upon Cambodian doctors, educators, and wizards for such rudimentary knowledge.

It is disheartening how often young Cambodian women and men ask me earnest questions about fundamental hygiene and elementary human biology. Their lack of understanding is directly related to lexical limitations and specific cultural norms which prohibit open and frank discussions of sexual and reproductive health matters between genders.

It was with a particularly heavy heart I recently translated pathology lab results from French (via English) to Khmer and explained to a young mother, because her “physician” was unwilling or unable to tell her, that she had had a bilateral hysterectomy. She was sent home with lab results and iron tablets and was not even told what procedure was done to her nor why it was necessary.

I cried the whole afternoon and shook my head in anger for her and so many others like her whom I have known.



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