Monthly Archives: March 2009

Transgenders in Bangladesh earns the right to vote

pinknews.co.uk

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-10095.html

December 29, 2008
Transgender Bangladeshis to vote today

by Rachel Charman
Today’s general elections in Bangladesh will be the first ever to allow transgender people to cast ballots. A Bangladeshi court ruled that transgender people are fully-fledged citizens and must have the right to vote. 100,000 transgender people are expected to be amongst the 81 million voters predicted to turn out to vote.
Transgender social worker Joya Shikder said: “We’ve always been overlooked in previous elections. It’s exciting to be given this recognition but the authorities have stopped short of acknowledging us as a third gender.”
Security has been tightened ahead of the election, following an outbreak of violence at a motorcade on Saturday which injured nearly 200 people. 500,000 army troops and thousands of security personnel have been deployed to keep the peace. The election will end a two-year period of emergency rule by an army-backed administration. Other minority groups have been granted the right to vote, including 40,000 Urdu-speaking Muslims, who originally migrated from Bihar after the partition of India in 1947, but were excluded from voting. Members of traveller communities and over 50,000 prisoners have also been enfranchised their right to vote.

———————————————————————————

by Ashok Deb

Personally I had been a good friend of Joya Sikdar,who is the chief organiser of Badhon Hizra Sangho,located at the outskirts of the city,Badda Dhaka.During my stay in Dhaka in 2006 I have seen Joya organise many demonstrations and street rallies for recognition of the third Gender by the Bangladeshi Government.In the last Election Period the Hizras/transexuals were given a choice to vote as males,as most of them are officially registered as males.But this offer was promptly rejected by the transexual community.I remember those days in mid 2006 when Joya tireless petitioned the Election Commision and the Home Ministry for recognition of the transxual rights.Even I participated in few of such demonstrations and travelled to Nimtoli in Narayanganj,which holds a sizeable third gender population,to conduct street workshop on safe sex procedures for them.Unfortunately Hijras are deprived of many facilities in our so-called society and they have to fight bitterly even for their basic civilian rights. The social approbation and governmental apathy has forced them to a life of  begging. They live from hand to mouth and are insulted or ostracised everywhere.

Some NGOs having awareness program on HIV/AIDS, STDs provide condoms, lubricant and medicine to this community. But the Hizras need education,technical skill, honor & rights like other people in our society. Governmental and foreign funds are being spent on development of under-previledged, but the homophobia and apathy has made the transexuals ecluded from the purview of such benefits.

 

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Why gay men flee Bangladesh

This article was published way back in 2003,when a Gay Asylum bid by a  Bangladeshi couple cleared its first hurdle in Australia.This article vividly describes some discriminations and persecutions faced by gay men in Bangladesh.Unfortunately nothing much has changed over the years.The Homosexuals in Bangladesh still continue to strive in the shadowy closetted world.The rejection apathy and social ridiculing is so strong that most of the homosexuals prefer to deny their sexual orientation to themselves and the society repeatedly.

The question has started to appear in the minds of the sexual minorities of Bangladesh….

HOW LONG SHALL WE BE DENIED OUR RIGHTFUL EXISTENCE AS HOMOSEXUALS??

 
Sydney Star Observer

April 16, 2003

Why gay men flee Bangladesh

POISONED WATER AND BOLLYWOOD MOVIES ARE KEY CAUSES OF HOMOSEXUALITY
IN BANGLADESH, OR SO SAY THE EXPERTS. A LOOK AT A COUNTRY WHERE BEING
GAY CAN RESULT IN TORTURE, ELECTROSHOCK TREATMENT AND FORCED
MARRIAGE.

By Adam Carr (BNews)
Bangladesh, with a population of 133 million, is the ninth-largest
country in the world, and the second-largest Moslem country in the
world after Indonesia.

Bangladesh is also a democracy, with a British-style parliamentary
system. One of the less pleasant legacies of British rule is Section
377 of the Penal Code, which provides: “Whoever voluntarily has
carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or
animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.”
Bangladesh
lawyers, however, say this law is a dead letter. “The instances of
prosecution under this section are extremely rare
,” writes one
lawyer. “In my 20 years of practice, I have not known or heard of a
case where a person has been prosecuted for homosexuality under the
aforesaid section.”

Quite a lot is known about homosexual practice in Bangladesh, thanks
to the work of an Australian gay man, Professor Gary Dowsett, who
wrote a research paper, Men Who Have Sex With Men In Bangladesh, as
part of an HIV-related research project. Dowsett describes a complex
pattern of sexual activity ‚ teenage male prostitution in Dhaka
parks, a custom of sex between male cousins and brothers-in-law, a
tradition of transvestism. All this, he notes, has nothing to do with
western “gay identity”, although this is now also starting to appear.

Until recently homosexuality was almost never spoken about in public.
This is beginning to change, but the results are sometimes a little
strange. A recent article in the Dhaka Daily Star noted, “We have a
much higher percentage of gays and lesbians in our society than we
had five years ago.” Dr Safiul Azam, associate professor of Sociology
at Dhaka University, went on to say homosexuality was increasing at
the rate of 3.5 percent a year. Dr Azam’s explanation for this was
arsenic contamination of the drinking water supply. ” With a steady
injection of arsenic in their blood stream over a week, 94 percent of
African mice invariably lost the ability to distinguish between
cheese on mouse traps and those on plain white paper.” The connection
between cheese discernment in mice and homosexuality was apparently
too obvious to explain.

Another Daily Star writer took the view that homosexuality resulted
from the pernicious effects of Indian movies. ” Girls these days are
watching Hrithik Roshan movies and naturally that makes them want
guys to be all six feet tall and good dancers,” the writer claimed. “
Their expectations are just way too high for the average
Bangladeshi. ” Many of us have reluctantly resorted to
this ‘alternative’ lifestyle with similarly frustrated male friends
because of their hard luck in getting a decent date.”
This would all be amusing enough were it not for the fact that
militant Islamic fundamentalism is gaining ground in Bangladesh as it
is elsewhere in the Moslem world. Islamist groups funded from Saudi
Arabia are campaigning for the introduction of shari’a law, which has
historically been unknown on the Indian subcontinent. Gay men will be
obvious victims of this trend, which is being resisted only fitfully
by Bangladeshi politicians fearful of offending Islamic sentiment.

Recently the United States granted political asylum to a Bangladeshi
gay man who was, he said, threatened with stoning by Islamic
fundamentalists. The man also reported being raped by police, forced
into electroshock treatment and ordered by his family to enter into
an arranged marriage. There is a real danger that Bangladesh may
follow Pakistan down the road of fundamentalist intolerance, in which
case there will be many more Bangladeshi gay men seeking asylum in
other countries, including Australia.

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Great strides by Boys Of Bangladesh

a gay prade in kolkata,india

a gay prade in kolkata,india

 

by Ashok Deb

 

I remember this Online yahoo goup which was acting as a platform for meeting points of gays in Dhaka.Recently the group has become more active outside the virtual world and is trying to bring unity and cohesion among the different LGBT , Transexual and Human Rights Groups in the country.During my tenure in Dhaka I heard that the group was submitting drafts to various Human Rights Organisations and the mdia to recognise the Homosexuals as sexual minorities. Presently the newly appointed owner of the group Himadri seem to be more optimistic about the recognition of same sex unions and repealing of aticle 377 A.

Personally i believe that the social approbation and antipathy is still strong against the gays due to lack of proper knowledge and studies on the subject.I will provide an article published in Mukto Mona online site about the psycho-physiological reasons for Homosexuality.IT IS A FACT THAT AN INDIVIDUAL HAS NO CONTROL OVER HIS SEXUALITY.This has been proved by the modern scientific studies.But unfortunately our nation is traversing on the path of Talibanisation by the fundamentalist groups who are nourished by the fundings from the Wahabists of Saudi and Kuwait. The semi-literate masses of Bangladesh are either totally deluded by the failure of transperency and integrity by our elected Governments or they simply succumb to the Radicalist ideals of an theocratic statehood as the Islamists dominats thm by sheer force.Bangladesh infact has become a haven for Islamic militancy and fundamentalism which has spread deep tentacls even within the security forces and the Army.I blame Azam Meers tenure as the intelligence chief of DGFI,when the Jehadist supporters were aided to make inroads into the states sensitive administrative and defence poitions.The recent BDR revolt is the clear indication as well as a lesson for the Government for the tough times ahead.

I want to wish Himadri all the best for his leadership tenure in Boys Only Bangladesh.He has been busy lately for conducting first ever workshop on sexual diversity .I appreciate and salute the vigour and enthusiam of this Gay Rights activist. After bing appointed the owner of Boys Only Bangladesh Group this was his message to the  members

Dear friends,
Though the online activities of BOB seem to have taken a back seat, especially the message board, BOB has never been this busy offline as it is now in 2009. To begin the year with, we had the first ever workshop on sexual diversity and coalition building among all LGBT groups in Bangladesh. The workshop itself then fueled a lot of activism and work for days to come. As we try our best to juggle our personal works and BOB activities, we sometimes wonder if we are going too fast leaving you all behind. So here’s an update on the works we have been doing and some events to look forward to. 
# Publication: As you all know BOB is going to publish its own magazine on a regular basis from now on. We have already formed a team to work on it and a call for write ups has been placed. We have also started to get very good response from you all. We plan to collect, edit and finalize the write ups by this month and launch the magazine on May 27, when we will also be celebrating International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) in style. 
# Training: A training for interested people on gender and sexuality has started from today (March 28). Through this training we envision to bring out some promising activists from you, educate ourselves on this diverse and complex issue of gender and sexuality, learn and share from each other, and at the same time strengthen our bond of friendship and solidarity. This is a 3 months long course with fortnightly sessions on the weekend. And most importantly its FREE! Our first day session went awesome today! :) 
# Advocacy: Some of you might know, in the universal periodic review of human rights by UN, Bangladesh was given some recommendations with specific focus of sexual diversity and repealing 377, which criminalizes any unnatural sex act. Our Govt is due to officially response to these recommendations in June. So right now, we are lobbying to penetrate the Govt and ultimately make it to address these recommendations. We are in touch with some reputed human rights organizations and lawyers to get the job done.
# Forming an organization: We are seriously thinking of having our own physical entity, form an organization and take the effort to the next level. As we all feel, a registered organization is a must to work effectively for our causes. We have been having some meetings lately as to how this organization should be formed and its missions and vision should be. BOB might have it’s own office anytime soon! 
# Entertainments: We have filled out the 2009 calendar with some great entertaining events for you. Exact dates of the events will be notified in due time. 
                                    April: 1) An exclusive screening of ‘A Jihad for Love’ (the movie is not released on DVD yet, but BOB has a copy coming directly from the Director:) ) 
                                             
                                   May: 1) A Day out in Water Kingdom
                                           2) Celebrating IDAHO and launching of BOB Publication
                                   June: 1) Musical Evening with our own stars
                                            2) Celebrating Stonewall Riots Day
                                    July: 1) Film Screening
                                            2) Lifestyle Show
 
                                    August: 1) 2nd Issue of BOB Publication
                                    September: 1) Fashion Show followed by DJ Party
                                    December: 1) 31st Night Celebration on a Cruise Ship
Well guys, that’s pretty much the updates for now. Look out for the upcoming events and send your suggestion, support and warmth our way. 
We look forward to a great 2009. 
Cheers
Himadri
 

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Saudi website alleges that Bangladeshis have been involved in 114 cases of homosexuality, a capital crime in Saudi Arabia


19 February 2008 
                                                            

Cairo – A Saudi-based website aims to stir hatred against 1.2 million Bangladeshis working in the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Under http://www.antirat.com the website features page after page of alleged crimes and misdemeanours committed by Bangladeshi labourers documented with photographs, ranging from the serious “rape and running prostitution ring” to the frankly ridiculous “unhygienic cooking” practices.

A plethora of crimes have been compiled from articles said to have been published in Saudi newspapers, and the site is regularly updated with the most recent article published on the website on Monday.

The regularity of the update seems to indicate that the website owners are trying to prove that Bangladeshi workers are breaking the law almost on a daily basis.

The most-read article on the website has six photographs of policemen and alleged offenders with captions.

In the first photo a man wearing the traditional Arab headgear and robe is standing in front of rows of shelves with detergents – apparently in a shop – and seizing the head of a man sitting on the floor.

The caption reads: “Crime no 1: Riyadh police catches a Bangladeshi in possession of 2,800 fake international phone cards.”

“A Bangladeshi was arrested during a security raid in Riyadh while trying to run away after seeing the police. After he was arrested and searched, a piece of gold was seized, which is likely to be stolen,” another caption reads.

A photograph of two men preparing food has the caption: “Workers from Bangladesh are preparing Ramadan meals in an unhygienic way and food that is gone off in their homes.”

The above acts are listed in the article under “The most atrocious crimes of Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”

The selling of sexual stimulants, possession of occult talismans, rape and having sex with Indonesian maids are other examples cited in articles incriminating Bangladeshis.

With a reported 80,000 hits in two weeks the website seems to be succeeding in drawing a big following. The aim is to encourage readers to pressure the Saudi authorities to expel Bangladeshis and fingerprint them in case they try to re-enter on false passports.

Three Saudis, who keep their identities secret, have reportedly launched the online campaign under the motto “No to depravity: Together against the depraved Bangladeshi workforce in our country.”

Another of the most popular articles on the website purports to be from the daily Saudi newspaper al-Jazeera. It shows official statistics revealing the high criminality among Bangladeshis.

“Raids by police targeting offending workers in many parts of the kingdom showed that the highest number of violations have been recorded by Bangladeshi labourers,” the article states.

Bangladeshis, according to the same article, have also been involved in 114 cases of homosexuality, a crime punishable by death under the strict version of sharia, or Islamic law, enforced in Saudi Arabia.

“In every community there are criminals. This is an organized hate campaign against our labourers,” M Shah Allam Bakshi, an economic minister at Bangladesh’s embassy in Riyadh, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The embassy would officially ask the Saudi government to stop the propaganda on the website, the diplomat said. But he refrained from criticizing the media from which the website is drawing the material for its campaign.

Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Council has recently debated the issue. Labour Minister Ghazi al-Gosaibi reportedly said his ministry was working hard to limit the number of Bangladeshi workers in the country.

Millions of low-paid workers from south Asia are fuelling the booming economies of the oil-rich Arab countries. In the absence of local laws and unions that protect labour rights and set minimum wages, cases of abuse of Asian workers are commonplace.

The most common complaints among Bangladeshi workers are very low wages and employers defaulting on payment or delaying it, Bakshi said.

 

[http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/186657,saudi-website-stirs-hatred-against-bangladeshis--feature.html]
 
 
 

 

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Gays and Lesbians: the hidden minorities of Bangladesh

 

 

Pinku

Bangladesh has been on the pages of the western media of late, mostly due to political violence, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and attacks on minorities. One of the minorities rarely mentioned in any media, Bangladeshi or western is the gay/lesbian population of the country. It is a topic seldom discussed anywhere, very rarely even in progressive circles. It is not that the estimated more than 10 million gay/lesbian Bangladeshis are having a great time in Bangladesh. Instead, they are constantly on the vigilance, having to watch behind their backs for fear of being found out. In the process their lives and those who are dependent on them are being ruined.

A new visitor from abroad may be struck by the open display of physical affection between same genders in Bangladesh. On the surface it can appear to be quite a friendly environment for gay people. After all, in how many western countries would you be able to see grown men walking hand in hand throughout the city streets? In the early evenings the scene is even more romantic where a stroll in the park reveals groups or pairs of young men singing love songs to each other, some of them even acting out some scene from a Bangla movie. How can one not be moved watching a man lying on the grass resting his head on another man’s lap while listening to his love songs? One would think this is the paradise that gay men talk about. If only it were to be so.

 

Legally homosexual acts are an offense, a remnant of the British penal code from the days of British domination of India. However, there is hardly any necessity of invoking those legal codes for the persecution of gay/lesbians in Bangladesh. The social approbation is strong enough to push these acts deep in the closet – so deep that gay people prefer to let the society ruin their lives rather than risk humiliation which is sure to follow any revelation. This is nothing new; most of us have experienced the trauma of ‘coming-out’ and many of us have taken a different route to mitigate its harshness. What is interesting in Bangladesh is that the culture is incredibly homo-social, i.e. there is a strong affectionate bond between the same genders that is allowed in this gender-segregated society. In that sense it would be too simplistic to define the culture as being homophobic – there is really no fear of intimacy between same sexes. Even Islam, the dominant religion, puts emphasis on the brotherhood (literally) of men.

The threat perceived both by society and religion is the exclusive adult union between the same sexes that would threaten the procreation oriented hetero family structure. Parents feel an absolute obligation to marry off their children before their own death. As if driven by a genetic imperative towards procreation Bangladeshis feel that they haven’t fulfilled their duty as parents if they have not carted off their children to the altar of hetero matrimony. And, of course, the next step is the push for grandchildren. Within this context it is very rare that gay men or lesbians can resist the pressure to marry and to procreate. They marry, have children and then have furtive sex on the side. Gay and lesbian relationships are pretty much out of the question. Not much different than how millions of gay men and lesbians are coping with intolerant societies all over the world. However, there is also an aspect of “I refuse to see it unless you shove it in front of my face” which tacitly accepts the semi-secretive extramarital sex life of married gay men. I don’t know much about how married lesbians cope but I doubt that it’s any easier than for gay men.

But I do know many gay men who are married with children. For the most part they live a very secretive life, hiding their innermost feelings from those who are supposed to be the closest to them; their wives, their best friends, their parents, their children. Surrounded by their families and their straight friends they are completely isolated. Nobody knows them, though they are seen by everybody. At least, that is what everyone wants to believe.

What is the social price of such invisibility? To be continued …

 

 

 

 

======================================

[The author Pinku is a repatriated Bangalee scholar writing his diary for MM from Dhaha, Bangladesh.This article was first published for Mukto Mona

http://www.mukto-mona.com/Articles/pinku/gay_bd.htm%5D

              
Dhaka Diary: Gays and Lesbians: the hidden minorities of Bangladesh

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The Shadow Citizens

 


There are gays in every society, including Bengali society, and there is no sense in suppressing and stifling homosexuality.


By Afsan Chowdhury
From:Himal Magazine
http://www.south-asia.com/himal/July/shadow.htm

They will forgive me if I commit a murder but not if they find out that I have a boy friend.” Mohsin is 28 years old, a Bangladeshi, and a gay. He was speculating on the possible reaction of his upper middle class family members if they were to discover his sexual preference. Having graduated two years ago, Mohsin has landed a decent job in a development outfit and knows his mother will push for his marriage as soon as his youngest sister ties the knot. He is terrified of that moment. He plans not to tell his family, and not to marry either.
Is he overreacting? There has been a number of cases where the family has accepted the same sex proclivity of their sons, and even daughters. While family dinners with same sex partners are still not in, children are not always thrown out if they are revealed to be homosexuals.
Gay Bangla
 
 
 
 

 

 

Homosexuals keep in touch with each other through magazines like Provortak (published from Calcutta) or through gay organisations. Some activists in Calcutta are directly involved in running sexual health projects jointly with official agencies.
Although India also has the same laws relating to sodomy, gays are not prosecuted. A petition for scrapping the sodomy laws is awaiting action at the Supreme Court in New Delhi. A number of organisations like the Humsafar Foundation have been working for wider acceptance of gays in Indian society with some degree of success. In West Bengal, there have been occasional instances of harassment, but gays can operate with relative openness. Gay prostitution is high, operating out of parks and other public places.
Some Calcutta lesbians, many of them married, have set up private clubs which are basically places to get together. But the stigma of female homosexuality remains strong in West Bengal as well, even though the pages of Provortak are full of pieces by lesbians discussing their problems.
In Bangladesh, it looks as if the sodomy laws will remain in the books for some time to come, not a little because of religious opposition. Whatever society may do in private, publicly they want respectable laws. In India, social attitudes are more liberal and relaxed, which allows gays to “come out” and access health and other services more easily.
Meanwhile, the least that the authorities could do is wake up to the reality of gay behaviour and recognise that health and social issues are becoming more and more pressing where homosexuals are concerned. Homosexuality does not disappear by ignoring it. Some Middle Eastern societies have adopted a pragmatic approach by maintaining that because homosexuality is a crime committed against God, the matter should be dealt by Him on Judgement Day. Perhaps this interpretation should be used to provide Bengali gays with some respite as well, if not in society at large, at least in law?
But there certainly are difficulties when homosexuals first declare their preference, known as “coming out” in gay parlance. Most families respond with dismay and a kind of corporate shame. Many feel that they have gone wrong somewhere in the child’s upbringing.
Since some gay activists in Bangladesh are very highly educated, once in a while, foreign education is cited as a reason for being gay. In fact, Bangladeshis are very active on the global gay scene. But those still in the closet oscillate between confusion, guilt and fear. “Why do they hate us?” asks a gay man in Dhaka. “Except for preferring people of the same sex as partners we have done nothing wrong.”
Being gay in Bangladesh isn’t easy because society responds differently to sexuality in public and in private. To put it bluntly, society is hypocritical, for it says one thing and does another. People involved with gay issues say that between 5 to 10 percent of the population is homosexual. That would mean at least 6 to 12 million Bangladeshis, more than the total population of many countries, prefer the same sex.
Even if that estimate is considered to be on the higher side and is reduced by half, the number left would still be significant. But almost no discussion can take place on the subject, even with the threat of HIV/AIDS looming over Bangladeshis and gays being identified as one of the most vulnerable groups.

Cultural Behaviour
One of the reasons that homosexuality is treated so gingerly is that the country’s Criminal Code decrees sodomy (homosexuality or advocacy of the same) a crime which is punishable with a jail sentence. Any discussion, not to speak of debate, is hence ruled out and homosexuality is driven into the shadow world.

Demonstration of homosexual tendencies for short periods is quite common in Bangladeshi society. Those practising it are not ostracised, although if caught, are ridiculed. Like in other societies, gay relationships flourish in dormitories, barracks, labour colonies and hostels, and authorities are hard pressed to keep them a secret.

In the Dhaka University dorms, cases of young boys being kept as “regulars” are well known. Male prostitutes are available in most towns. And in rural areas, homosexuality is generally considered something that young people do for fun and some elders may do in secret. Male homosexuality is tolerated despite religious sanction. Yet divorce citing gay behaviour by any partner is not known.

 

It is a different story for lesbians, however. Although it is no secret that dormitories record incidences of lesbianism and studies have corroborated the fact, it is kept a secret fearing loss of marriage prospects. And marriage, after all, is society’s idea of a woman’s ultimate nirvana. Literature has recorded a high incidence of shakhi culture, where proximate friendship develops between two women in which emotions are at least romantic and may lapse into “touching”, though both parties may deny any sexual overtones in such relationships. Psychologists say many shakhis may be substitutes for boyfriends.

Society frowns upon single women, and the social pressure to marry–doesn’t matter who to–is intense. Most succumb to it, despite their sexual preferences, and end up miserably knotted.

Heterosexual girls suffer in marriages with male gays too. “I can’t run away from my responsibilities. I have a family. So I stay although we are like strangers at home,” says Sultana, a 30-plus housewife married to a gay. Many gays, forced into marriage, often resort to clandestine and then increasingly open gay relationships, leaving women with a dead marriage to have and to hold. Children, economic dependence and “shame” prevents any divorce actions.

There are some instances of lesbians entering permanent relationships, but most lesbians are married and whatever sexual liaisons they may enter into are purely by chance. “I have had sex with a woman only once in my life,” says Zaheda, who works for a travel agency and lives with her disabled sister. The tolerance level for lesbians is very low in Bengali society. It is low for women in general. One either worships them (mother models) or abuses them (partners).

West Bengal (India)
The situation is somewhat different in Bengali society across the border in India. At the elite level, there is considerable acceptance of homosexuality and of gay groups.

Homosexuals keep in touch with each other through magazines like Provortak (published from Calcutta) or through gay organisations. Some activists in Calcutta are directly involved in running sexual health projects jointly with official agencies.
 
 
 
 

 

                                                 
gay parade in India

gay parade in India

Although India also has the same laws relating to sodomy, gays are not prosecuted. A petition for scrapping the sodomy laws is awaiting action at the Supreme Court in New Delhi. A number of organisations like the Humsafar Foundation have been working for wider acceptance of gays in Indian society with some degree of success. In West Bengal, there have been occasional instances of harassment, but gays can operate with relative openness. Gay prostitution is high, operating out of parks and other public places.

Some Calcutta lesbians, many of them married, have set up private clubs which are basically places to get together. But the stigma of female homosexuality remains strong in West Bengal as well, even though the pages of Provortak are full of pieces by lesbians discussing their problems.

In Bangladesh, it looks as if the sodomy laws will remain in the books for some time to come, not a little because of religious opposition. Whatever society may do in private, publicly they want respectable laws. In India, social attitudes are more liberal and relaxed, which allows gays to “come out” and access health and other services more easily.

Meanwhile, the least that the authorities could do is wake up to the reality of gay behaviour and recognise that health and social issues are becoming more and more pressing where homosexuals are concerned. Homosexuality does not disappear by ignoring it. Some Middle Eastern societies have adopted a pragmatic approach by maintaining that because homosexuality is a crime committed against God, the matter should be dealt by Him on Judgement Day. Perhaps this interpretation should be used to provide Bengali gays with some respite as well, if not in society at large, at least in law?

 

 

 

 

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An Analysis of Homosexuality in Bangladesh

by ASHOK DEB

Bangladesh is perceived to be one of the few Islamic states which exercises considerable tolerance towards the issue of homosexuality.The instances of utilising Governmental instruments for persecuting Homosexuals is rare. But practising homosexuality is strictly prohibited by the law under Section 377 A of the CrPC (Criminal Penal Code).The law says- “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall be liable to fine.”

Moazzam Husain a notable lawyer of the Supreme Court in Bangladesh opined that penetration itself is sufficient to constitute “carnal intercourse” described in the law.Homosexuality is considered as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and hence the practicers are liable to prosecution on grounds of their sexuality alone.Here the private morality of the two consenting individuals is considered redundant and immaterial.He stated “Where sexual behaviour offending against natural order is an offence, consent is immaterial. In case of sexual behaviour contemplated in Section 377 of the Penal Code question of ‘consenting adults’, to my mind, is of no avail. There is no, at least I have not come across any, decision of the Supreme Court on this point.”(DailyStar 5th October 2004)

It is unfortunate that homosexuality,a practice so harmless and personal in practice,have been criminalised in our country. People involved with gay issues have estimated about 5 to 10 percent of the population as homosexual.That would mean a sizeable population prefer same sex relationships.However no serious discussions take place on this subject even within progressive circles as Homosexuality is grossly equated as Perversion.The threat of HIV/AIDS looms heavily over the Bangladeshi gays and male sex workers as very few of them have access to the safe sex concepts.The country’s Criminal Penal Code decrees sodomy or its advocacy as a crime punishable by the law. The Sodomy Act of Article 377 A is more or less utilised to create a fear psychosis,which prohibits the homosexuals from coming out or demand legalisation of same sex relationships.

But in reality very rarily the Sodomy Act has been utilised to prosecute the Homosexuals en-masse in this nation.This so-called benovalence of the Government has lead the international community to believe that the safety of the gays are infact protected in this nation.However an indepth analysis reveals the real stand of the authorities towards same sex relationships and their recognition. Bangladesh hosts the second largest muslim population in the world and hence the society is naturally homophobic .The concept of Homosexuality is completely incompatible with the puritan islamic morals and an obvious taboo for the semi-literate society.The morality minders of the society,policy makers and the ever pervading self appointed guardians of this Islamic nation the mullahs and imams have formulated an easy solution to the problem.Though not declared officially like IRAN, still the general overview about the subject is the concept of homosexuality does not simply exist in the conservative socio-cultural contexts.

This untold dubious policy has yeilded some obvious benefits to the Government. A brutal denial of the presence of Homosexuality have technically terminated all the needs for any debates toward its legalisation.The policy-makers have clearly decided to tread a cautious middle path over this issue.The Government’s stand is crystal clear on this issue that neither the homosexuals will be sentenced to harsh punitive measures like prolonged imprisonment or death penalty nor will the same sex relationships be legalised. Thus issue of LGBT rights have been conveniently shelved into the dark shadowy closet forever by the law makers.Since there is no official persecution of the gays,Bangladesh can maintain its liberal and moderate outlook to the international community and conveniently lobby for financial and humanitarian aides and assistance.On the other hand politicians can openly declare and justify to the masses about their commitment of upholding strong Islamic puritan morals for the society.

unfortunately the Bangladeshi Govt and the Islamic society has criminalised a behaviour so personal and harmless

unfortunately the Bangladeshi Govt and the Islamic society has criminalised a behaviour so personal and harmless

Unfortunately it is the gays and lesbians of our society who bears the brunt of this dubious double-edged Governmental policy.Hardly any necessity arises of invoking the legal codes for their persecution as the sociatal homophobia is strong enough to push them deep into the closet.The gay people prefers to let the society ruin their lives rather than risk humiliation which is sure to follow any revelation of their forbidden love. Most of them are afraid to experience the trauma of ‘coming-out’ and thus takes the “Closetted”route to ease the harshness.Most of the homosexuals have to conceal their relationships very carefully from any public scrutiny.Even the mindset of the Human Rights Organisations or the media is so severely biased that they fail to recognise the homosexuals as sexual minorities. In Dhaka an organisation named Bandhu contributed a lot towards counselling and support of the homosexuals.Still the organisation would prefer to be identified as a relief agency for the male sex workers rather than homosexuals. Criminalisation of homosexuality by the government is the main reason behind it.

Often the family members react in shock and despair after discovering the sexuality of their offsprings and force them into sham marriages or quacky medications which may include the same electro-shock procedures utilised to neutralise insane patients.Bangladesh is ranked among one of the poorest nations and operates just at the basic level of survival.Hardly any resources are allocated for LGBT or gender studies.Bangladeshi medical practioners have failed to identify the complex socio-cultural and biological reasons for the cause of Homosexuality mainly due to inavailibily of modern medical journals and their repulsion towards this subject.The absence of any organised research on this subject have lead the doctors to device their own quacky doctrines as its cause of this phenomenon. Recently some Dhaka University scholars have blamed the arsenic contamination in water as the main reason behind rapid rise of this so-called immoral behaviour.It is extremely ridiculous that the research and its subsequent conclusions were based on the studies of african mice rather than human volunteers.While the right wing islamic coalition parties have blamed the influencing western culture and have called for stricter puritan SAHABI lifestyles and legislisations.

The homosexuals of the metropolis of Dhaka have the luxury to slip into the invisibility of the cyber world to look for partners.These closetted gays oscillate between confusion, guilt and fear. “Why do they hate us?” asked a gay man in Dhaka. “Except for preferring people of the same sex as partners we have done nothing wrong.” I repeat my views again that Criminal Behaviour One of the reasons that homosexuality is treated so gingerly is that the country’s Criminal Code decrees sodomy (homosexuality or advocacy of the same) a crime which is punishable with a jail sentence. Any discussion, not to speak of debate, is hence ruled out and homosexuality is driven into the shadowy world of apathy.The gay scene in the rural areas is diametrically opposite.The secret same sex relationships lasts till the society has no clues about it.On revelation of any such activities most couples are forced to break off their relationship and bluntly deny their forbidden love to the society.If a homosexual couple fails to oblidge to these dictatorial social norms,they are subjected to the holy grail of the islamic justice the FATWA which may include public humiliation, canning or a forced eviction from village.Infact the government law enforcers stand as mute spectators fearing the wrath of religious fanatics and society members for obstructing JUSTICE to the sodomisers.

The conditions of the lesbians are much worse than their male counterparts.In this marriage oriented society a marital life is considered to be the ultimate NIRVANA for a woman.Any unmarried woman is looked upon suspiciously as an immoral whore by the pre-dominantly muslim society. So most lesbian women succumb to parental pressures for getting married.During my stay in Bangladesh I have not come across any women who have indentified herself as a LESBIAN,which sometimes really provocked me to believe that infact Lesbianism may be absent in Bangladesh.But later i conceived that the society infact have much lower tolerance threshold for lesbianism.Thus to avoid social abrobation and rejection a lesbian opts to  live with a male partner and producing his offsprings.The prevalence of Sakhi Culture among the  fairer sex inner circles,indicates to the existence of the socially  invisible phenomenon.

Now the simple question arises

WHERE DO WE HEAD FROM HERE ??

Will the same sex relationships be legalised in Bangladesh?

Will the Controversial Article 377 scrapped from the constitution?

Will the social dejection and homophobia be stopped by special legalisation which calls for punishment to the offenders against homosexuals ?

The answer is a pessimestic NO in all the above queries.No political parties dares to talk about the rights of sexual minorities to uphold their puritan image among the masses.Sadly enough the country has been put on the track of Talibanisation since the last one decade.The leaders of Islamic Ain Bastobayon Samity and the Islamic Oikyo Jot headed by Fazlul Amini wants to implement the strictest Homophobic Law in the nation….the so-called DIVINE SHARIA LAW hithero unknown in the subcontinent.The Jamayet e Islami leaders have been groomed and funded by the Wahabist of Saudi.From the ranks of Islami Chatra Shibir (student wing of JEI) the volunteers for Jamayet Ul Mujaheedin and Jagrata Muslim Janata are regularly drafted.The  semi literate masses  of this deltaic nation is bewildered by the corrput political processses and hence supports the ideals of creating a pure idealist Islamic state as proposed by the radicals.

 To be honest enough, I perceive that the present Government holds a loose control over Bangladesh.While the radical Jehadi Islamists has spread deep tentacles inside the army and security forces.The latest scandal was the armed revolt in BDR forces by JMB supporters.The United Nation has asked Bangladesh to withdraw its peace keeping forces echoing similar concerns .In my view,we are facing the days similar to the Shahs rule  before the Islamic Revolution in Iran and its just a matter of time when the democratic goverment will be overthrown by the radicals.

Thus the road ahead for the Homosexuals in Bangladesh in the coming time seems to be more grim and disturbing.We really need intervention of the International Community to ensure safety of the SEXUAL MINORTIES in Bangladesh.I had the oppurtuanity of meeting prominent Gay Rights Activitists while in exile and most of them is completely unaware of the dejection,discrimation and persecution the Homosexuals are facing in our nation. This is a small effort from my side to make the World know about the silent persecution and genocide the homosexuals are bearing and will bear in the days to come.

 

 

poster

how long will the homosexuals in Bangladesh will stand on the crossroads of rejection,discrimination and antipathy??

 

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Filed under Analysis of Homosexual Issues, Ashok DEB