Monthly Archives: June 2009

Training for Right’s Activists on Gender and Sexual Diversity by BoB

 

Submitted by Tanvir Alim

Edited by Ashok DEB

 

The Homosexual community in Bangladesh still remains closetted within the walls of virtual cyber space, which offers them with the much coveted anonymity along with few sporadic opportunities of intimate privacy. Till recently a few of these groups have undergone considerable metamorphosis to mature into Same Sex Rights Activism. Boys of Bangladesh (BoB) can be quoted as the best example of that.

Today BoB is actively engaged in building up a visible Gay community in Bangladesh. BoB members face quite a daunting challenge in assisting individuals towards accepting their sexuality and finally COMING OUT to their families.  However even those who decide to formally COME OUT, constrain themselves from any sorts of Rights activism being affected by the obvious phobia of societal marginalization and rejection. The dearth of quality activists has been adversely impairing the cultural and activism events of these LGBTI NGOs for quite a while.

To groom future activists and educate them with some much needed concepts of the richly diversified sexual and gender identities, Boys of Bangladesh have arranged a workshop named Training for Rights Activists on Gender and Sexual diversity. The program is scheduled to be of four months duration with regular fortnightly sessions. The training has commenced from 28 March and will continue till the end of July.

Presently the sessions are being conducted by Adnan Hussein, a well known researcher in sociology and social anthropology with a focus on gender and sexual diversity in Bangladesh.In the upcoming classes, guest lecturers are expected to contribute on certain specific topics in collaboration with in-house academics.Each training session is designed to deeply focus on certain particular subject areas related to gender diversities and queer activism cutting across from local to the international level .

The initial announcements of the training was posted across the BoB message board and was circulated to the different LGBTI organizations to attract candidates representing diverse social and gender backgrounds.  The applicants’ attributes and commitment towards LGBTI activism was properly screened before inducing them into the course. Presently the study group consists of delegates from prominent NGOs like Bandhu Social Welfare Society, Badhon Hijra Shangha, Shacheton Shilpi Samaj, as well as students with formal academic backgrounds and other interested participants.

These learning sessions provides the participants a unique opportunity of interaction and brainstorming while conceiving diverse viewpoints over the complex issues of gender identities and sexual orientation. The BoB management plans to award a Certificate to the attending participants at the end of the course.  It deserves a special mention that the course has been delivered absolutely free of cost to the attending delegates. Naripokkho has assisted with the necessary logistic support to make this training a SUCCESS.

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Tanvir Alim is a premier Gay Rights Activist and is associated with BoB Bangladesh.He is presently involved in gay community building and editing a quarterly publication of BoB

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BoB Workshop on Sexual Diversity and Coalition Building,Feb 2009

 

 

Crossposted from BoB message board after receiving a formal permission from the author.

 

A glimpse from the Coxbazaar Workshop, highlighted in this pic is Joya and Kotha

 

 By Himadri

I am pleased to inform that the Workshop on Sexual Diversity and Coalition Building facilitated by Boys of Bangladesh (BoB) with support from The Norwegian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association (LLH) was held successfully on the 6th and 7th February, Coxs Bazaar, Bangladesh.

The aims of the workshop were to:

  • Identify social and legal obstacles to equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Bangladesh
  • Share experiences and learn from each other
  • Build partnership amongst Bangladeshi LGBT groups, communities and supportive bodies
  • Find out the effective strategy for LGBT activism in Bangladesh to advance rights and ensure justice
  • Strengthen our knowledge in the field of gender and sexual diversity in Bangladeshs context.

This workshop focused on issues related to LGBT rights. There have been much interventions in Bangladesh in the field of sexual health, but very little has been done so far to address the social and legal oppressions faced by the LGBT community. This workshop was an attempt to initiate dialogue and formulate future plans to carry forward the LGBT activism in Bangladesh.

There were 27 participants from 12 different organizations that inlcudes BoB, QB, Shawprova, BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, Naripokkho, Bandhu Social Welfare Society, Let There Be Light, Femcom, Badhon Hijra Sangha, Socheton Silpi Sangha, Sushtho Jibon and Dustho Shastho Kendra. Arne Haug, First Secretary from the Royal Norwegian Embassy attended the workshop on behalf of Norwegian Govt. and upheld his Govt’s stance on the LGBT issue.

 

This should be noted here that it was the very first time that the LGBT community of Bangladesh was brought under one common platform and issues related to their rights and concerns were discussed. It was a great celebration of gender and sexual diversity that bonds us together.

 

The workshop came up with the following prescriptions:

 

# Everyone strongly felt that to strive for our rights and take forward the activism, LGBT groups need to work together with common goals and aspirations.

# There is a lack of understanding and sensitivity among the LGBT community itself that needs to be addressed with regular interaction and communication among these diverse groups of people.

# We couldn’t reach to any consensus as to how to deal with the legal issues and visibility attached to it.

# The role of media was also extensively discussed with a suggestion to promote LGBT issues through various ways and avenues.

# The necessity to penetrate the civil society, govt bodies and other supportive international organizations was also highlighted.

# We have decided to bring out a publication and a website

# To proceed further with the suggestions, another meeting of the core members from each organization is scheduled for April.

 

The formal report on the workshop will be published and distributed in a short time. In the mean time, BoB is working on it’s first publication and a training on gender and sexual diversity.

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Himadri is a 24 year old dynamic LGBTI defender from Bangladesh. Presently he holds the premier position in BoB, a gay rights organization in Dhaka. Himadri is actively involved in the project of uniting a number of LGBTI groups together under a common platform and acquiring the approval status of the newly formed umbrella group from the Ministry of Social welfare.

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Gay Indian prince opens Brazilian Pride parade

By Nell Frizzell • June 22, 2009 – 17:17

Crossposted from pinknews.co.uk

Find the original article here :

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-12925.html

Prince Manvendrasinh Gohil opened this year’s Sao Paulo Pride

Prince Manvendrasinh Gohil opened this year's Sao Paulo PrideAn Indian prince who had been disowned by his family because of his sexuality  inaugurated the Gay Pride Parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil,    earlier this month.

Prince Manvendrasinh Gohil, who is from Rajpipla in Gujarat, was the only  Indian person to have been formally invited to this year’s event.

“Every person present in the crowd was cheering for India the moment they saw me. It was a very special moment for me. People there are curious to know more about India,” said Gohil.

The Sao Paulo Pride was held from June 10th -14th and attracted over three million people.

“It was unbelievable to see such a huge gathering,” Gohil told the Indian newspaper DNA. “And the parade was not the only thing. I inaugurated an office, an art exhibition and even released a book on homosexuality authored by the mother of a gay son. I was even made to dance with Samba dancers. The experience was terrific.”

The 43-year-old prince was denounced in 2006 after publicly announcing his sexuality. Consequently, all his rights as the son and heir to the Rajpipla fortune have been revoked.

Homosexuality is still, according to the Indian Penal Code, considered a criminal offence and can carry a life sentence.

“I will study the norms that helped in making homosexuality legal in Brazil. I will try to incorporate them in our efforts to make homosexuality legal in India,” said the prince on his return to India.

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Royal portrait of Manvendra Singh Gohil

Manvendra Singh Raghubir Singh (known as ‘Manvendra Singh Gohil’, ‘Manvendrasingh Gohil’, or ‘Manvendra Gohil’) (* 23 September 1965 in Ajmer) is a Hindu belonging to the royal family of the former princely state of Rajpipla in India.

He was disinherited after revealing his gay sexuality, and since then there has been a question mark over his relations with the family. He is the only known person of former royal lineage in modern India to have publicly revealed he is gay.

In January 2008, while performing an annual ceremony in Rajpipla in honour of his great-grandfather Maharaja Vijaysinhji, Manvendra Gohil announced plans to adopt a child from within the Rajpipla family, saying: “I have carried out all my responsibilities as the prince so far and will continue as long as I can. I will also adopt a child soon so that all traditions continue”. If the adoption proceeds, it will be the first known case of a single gay man adopting a child in India. In June, 2009, at São Paulo, he told: “Adopting a child is easy in India, and there is no problem because of being openly gay. I hope to be with my son soon after the return of Brazil”.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manvendra_Singh_Gohil

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Justus Eisfeld’s speech on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the UN

 

 

By Justus Eisfeld (GATE)                                                                 

June, 2009

Geneva

 

Dear Chairwoman, distinguished participants,

Thank you for inviting me for this historic event, and for giving me the chance to speak about the work that the UN can to to combat the human rights abuses that transgender people face, as well as give you some positive examples of how these abuses and obstacles can be overcome.
I feel that I live in exciting times, when the UN, along with its member states, start to realize that the human rights of trans people matter, when in fact gender identity is included in panel discussions like this one, and when member states include gender identity in statements like the December one.
There is work to do for trans people in all UN member states, including those who have pledged to work for human rights of all citizens, regardless of their gender identity.
This also gives trans people the encouragement to demand that the signatory countries stand by their words and carry out what they say.

When I talk about trans or transgender people I use this term in the most inclusive way: Everybody who does not fit neatly into the stereotypes that go with the gender they were assigned at birth. That could be the man with the sway in his walk, the woman who wears her hair short, but also those who cross the gender lines in more obvious ways, when their intersex body does not neatly match either man *or* woman, or by identifying as transvestite or transsexual like myself.

Whenever somebody in society crosses the line of what is considered to be ‘normal’ for a man or ‘normal’ for a woman we start treading on dangerous ground. Transgender people face obstacles mainly in different ways:
we encounter violence and discrimination,
we are denied healthcare,
we have to prove sterility to match our paperwork with our identity or cannot change our papers at all.

Firstly, Violence is the most visible. In the UK – and I mention the UK only because it is one of the few countries with any reliable data, not because the situation is any better or worse than elsewhere – 73% of trans people reported negative comments, verbal, physical or sexual abuse or threatening behavior.
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has repeatedly drawn attention to the murders of transgender people in Venezuela, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia and Honduras. Hateful murders of transgender people have been reported from most countries of the world. Some of the murders were committed by police officers and more often than not have police officers turned the other way when friends and families demanded an investigation.
On a positive note just two days ago, the Scottish parliament passed a transgender-inclusive hate-crimes bill unanimously, being the first in Europe to do so.

Secondly, access to healthcare can be a problem just as lethal as physical violence. When trans people go to a doctor for a broken bone or the flu, most of us will be treated badly, be refused for treatment altogether or simply avoid to go in the first place because of negative experiences. About 30% of trans people in the UK have that experience. Transgender-specific healthcare is often not covered by health insurance systems, even though the very same hormones are available for other patients. Way too many trans people therefore seek self-medication, and use hormones they purchase on the black market, without proper instruction on dosage, safe needle use or regular check-ups. Way too many trans people also self-medicate with amateur injections of silicone, sometimes even industrial-grade silicone. Lack of access to healthcare kills trans people every day, because we bleed to death, have silicone clotting our blood vessels or simply just kill ourselves because we can’t stand the pressure of not conforming to a gender that was assigned to us at birth. About a third of trans people in Sweden, the UK and Europe in general have attempted suicide at least once.
Intersex people or people with disorders of sex development, become the victims of surgeries which leave the person with mutilated genitalia and no sexual functioning. These surgeries are performed without the consent of the patient, who is often a small child at the time the procedures are performed.
On a positive note, Brazil has just started to integrate transgender-specific healthcare into the regular public healthcare plans, and surgeries for transgender people with a special permission are free in Chile and Argentina.

Thirdly, changing one’s paperwork to match the identity of that person is a nightmare all over the world. In about 90% of the EU member states, including the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, sterilization, other surgeries or hormone treatment are a requirement just to be able to change one letter in a passport or birth certificate. In other words: these states are prescribing surgeries and hormones without a doctor’s license. Ireland and Lithuania have so far failed to react to their conviction by the European Court of Human Rights and still deny trans people the right to change their birth certificate or personal identification number several years after the verdict.
A positive example in this respect is Kazakhstan which allows their transgender citizens to change their paperwork without any kind of medical treatment in a ministerial order from 2003.

I could go on much longer.
I could talk about rejection by family members, by friends and by neighbors.
I could talk about the humiliating feeling of being diagnosed with a personality disorder.

But this list is getting too depressing already.

What the UN statement does is to give trans people the hope that our governments will take up our issues, and will look at their own laws and correct problems where they exist. None of the signatory states of the UN statement are there yet. In fact all of the core group members and organizers of this panel seriously violate the human rights of trans people at this moment. But by signing this statement and by organizing this panel these countries open the door and demonstrates the willingness to look at their issues at home and treat trans people better in the future.
I would like to invite the High Commissioner to look into the human rights abuses that trans people face and to make an overview of these issues in the laws which regulate a change of paperwork.
I would like to invite Ireland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, and Norway to lead the way in this process by announcing that name and gender changes will be possible to all trans and intersex people who feel the need to do so – irrespective of whether or not they have had surgeries, hormone treatments or a personality disorder diagnosis.
I would like to invite all countries to follow the example of Bolivia and outlaw discrimination against trans people in their constitution or in other laws.
I would like to ask all other countries to do the same and – hopefully – follow that good example.

Thank you.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Justus Eisfeld is an Internationally recognized expert in the field of diversity and anti-discrimination,with special expertise in transgender and LGB issues.He is an excellent networker and a convincing public speaker.Presently Justus is actively invloved in the advisory boards of LGBT Program-HRW and Transgender Europe. Justus is well known lobbyist for protection and recognition rights of the Trans Individuals across the globe.

 

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e-groups a case study: BoysOnlyBangladesh- BOB

 

Internet in Bangladesh was an expensive affair even in the new millennium. Only the privileged upper class y had access to the virtual world.IRC fast became a popular chatting platform where a room for Bangladeshis was created and soon it was a major hub for Bangladeshis worldwide to mingle and giggle. The platform also helped queer Bangladeshis find each other using witty but effective pseudonyms obviously for security reasons.

Owing to the massive popularity and rapid expansion of the internet, local entrepreneurs opened up chatting rooms and the first one to lead that was BDChat. This being a site with lots more facilities, BDChat gained attention in no time and soon people were joining in numbers, which of course included quite a few gay men. These men were scattered and kept in touch only through mobile phones and Internet. There was no gay community as such though a need for unity had been identified. BOB (BoysOnly_Bangladesh) was created on 2nd November 2002 arranging the first ever offline get-together on 7 December. A few brave men who dared to meet in broad daylight in public place. On 25th December 2002 BOB was deleted by Yahoo without any warning. BOB was reopened on 4 Jan, 2003 with a slightly different name BoysOnlyBangladesh. BOB remained discreet and went on with its highly guarded get-togethers and it grew slowly but steadily. Since the first get-together there has been at least one get-together every month with more and more people attending. The security concerns increased in parallel to this expansion.

Initially membership was restricted and people could join only by invitation. The moderators invited people they knew from chatting rooms, dating websites and through other people. The group was listed under the adult category and could not be found by a regular search. Even after invitation if a member wanted to join, he had to go through a formal procedure of writing an application to the moderators giving a brief introduction, a name (not necessarily a real one), age, location and how he got to know about the group. Only after getting a filled out application, would moderators approve an application. This was done because of the obvious security concerns.

In 2006, a new management team was formed who decided to radicalize the BOB by changing the membership system and becoming more visible. And the result was overwhelming. In just a month, the number of members reached a whopping 600+ from 300. The offline events also got bigger and better. Parties were introduced along with regular film shows, river cruise, picnics etc. A new permanent “hangout” was also selected where we all would meet together at a particular time of a particular day and eventually this became a common place to meet. The idea was to create an option for people just to drop by and have a casual fun meeting. Visibility became a new strategy.

BOB members were already forming friend groups among themselves and were meeting outdoors quite bravely. They were more comfortable with their sexuality and weren’t afraid to flaunt it publicly. A community, a sense of belonging was ultimately formed giving the strength and inspiration to move forward.

The risk of becoming visible was taken and it turned out to be positive. As a part of security plan for this visibility BOB started sending letters to the daily news papers talking about gay issues. The response was mixed with some great support and extreme criticism. Safe sex campaign was also initiated and lots of members were encouraged to go for voluntary HIV testing. As a result, in 2006 BOB had a meeting with the then country representatives of UNAIDS and facilitated a survey on sexual diversity carried out by ASK.

After the country went into emergency rule with recent caretaker govt. coming into being, BOB ceased all its regular activities to avoid any negative reactions. 2007 saw no offline events and the year went by without any activism. The political situation didn’t even permit heterosexual parties. In 2008 when the political situation stabilized, BOB revived its regular parties and started organizing get-togethers. On May 17th 2008, BOB celebrated the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO) launching its logo and plans for future events. It was the first event where BOB appeared openly as a gay group with the approval of the restaurant. For the first time a public venue recognized BOB and its crowd. With pride we displayed our logo and rainbow symbol all over the venue.

In these years lots of other e-groups have been formed with different promising slogans, but none of these groups have managed to survive. The initial careful steps helped BOB a great deal to gain the trust of its members and to be at the position it is now. BOB plans to stick to the strategic approach and move forward cautiously for days to come.

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Comments by Ashok DEB:

This manual for the Protection of LGBTI Defenders has been adapted from the New Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders Researched and written by Enrique Eguren and Marie Caraj, of Protection International (P I). This manual has been produced for the benefits of the Human Rights Defenders and can be produced, quoted and photocopied for non-commercial purposes as long as the source is acknowledged.

You can download this manual (English Version) from this following link:

http://www.protectionline.org/spip.php?article7912

The case study on BOB, e-groups a case study: BoysOnlyBangladesh- BOB appears on page 109 in the hard copy of the Protection Manual for LGBTI Defenders. However,that very page 109 is strangely missing across the downloadable version of the manual.

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Burundi outlaws homosexuality

 By Staff Writer, PinkNews

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-12181.html

Gay sex is now illegal in Burundi

The government of Burundi has criminalised homosexuality, punishing offenders with up to two years in prison. Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, secretly signed the legislation into law on April 22th. In March, the lower house of the African country’s parliament reversed a Senate vote which rejected the amendment to the new criminal code. However, thousands of citizens took to the streets in a government-organised demonstration to protest at the Senate decision not to criminalise homosexuality. Under the Burundian constitution, the National Assembly prevails in cases of conflict between the two houses of Parliament The new law makes being gay a crime for the first time in the country’s history. Gay and human rights groups are campaigning to have the law repealed, saying it violates fundamental human rights. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and around 60 other groups have spoken out over the move. “Burundi has taken a disappointing step backward by legalising discrimination,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Programme at Human Rights Watch. “The government has fallen back on ‘custom’ and ‘culture’ to justify this repressive step – but there can be no justification for stripping some of Burundi’s people of their fundamental rights.” Campaigners claim that the law’s Article 567, which penalises consensual same-sex sexual relations by adults with up to two years in prison, violates the rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination. There are also fears the new legislation will hamper efforts to fight AIDS. Other changes to the law include abolishing the death penalty and introducing new laws against genocide, war crimes and torture. Amnesty International welcomed the lifting of the death penalty but expressed disappointment at the new anti-gay laws.

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Nepal: Lesbian Visibility Increases After the Government Recognizes LGBT Rights

Crossposted from the site of International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.This report appeared in ilghrc.org on 05/21/2009

http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/resourcecenter/906.html
 


The Nepalese government used to consider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to be ‘unnatural’ and ‘perverted.’ Human rights for these individuals were just a distant dream. But ever since the Maoist revolutionaries won the 10-year war against the state to end the monarchy, LGBT activists have found a possible ally.

Until around a year ago, the ruling Maoist party held the same perception of homosexuality as the monarchy did. However, recent actions suggest that the ruling government has significantly changed its position. Evidence of this include: the appointment of Blue Diamond Society (BDS) President Sunil Pant to the Constituent Assembly; Prime Minister Pushpa Dahal Prachandra’s efforts to instruct both the Foreign Ministry and Nepal’s Ambassador to the UN to support a statement at the UN General Assembly recognizing human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and the recent Supreme Court ruling that ensured equal rights for sexual minorities, including the right to same-sex marriage.

Sunil Pant stressed that the court recognized gays as “natural people” and ordered the government to end all discrimination against LGBT individuals by formulating appropriate laws and amending existing laws to ensure rights for LGBT individuals. “Nepal has recognized the third gender as a separate gender. Passports and national identification cards have third gender mentioned. Understanding that the LGBT community is a huge vote bank, political parties in Nepal include our needs in their manifestos,” he said.

In this very promising climate, Nepalese lesbians, especially those from remote provinces, and lesbians from neighboring Southeast Asian countries like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, are becoming increasingly optimistic that Nepal is a place where they can be safe, free from discrimination and violence. 


Last April, two teenage lesbians from the city of Kolkata, India fled to Nepal and sought help from BDS. They left Kolkata because their families opposed their lesbian relationship and chose to go to Nepal after hearing that same sex-marriage had been legalized in that country. The couple was given a civic ceremony organized by BDS because the government has not yet passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in spite of the court’s ruling.

Dil Kumari Buduja, BDS coordinator for the lesbian community, has observed the rise of lesbian marriages and lesbian support groups in other provinces of Nepal and has estimated that there are about 1,200 lesbians who are out of the closet while gay men and transgender people probably number more than 200,000. At present there are five lesbian support groups: Saino Nepal in Chitwan, Sangini Nepal in Birgunj Town, Nawalo Srijana in Nepalgunj, Sahara Samaj in Itahari, and another one that will begin work soon in Kathmandu.

Since becoming aware of their human rights, lesbians have been using the courts to fight discrimination. Two years ago, Nepal’s Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fired Manish Yadav, 21, of Saptari district, and Rita Yadav, 20, of Siraha district for being lesbians. Manish retaliated by taking the army to court and demanding to be reinstated. Progress has also been made in other areas: according to Pinky (Rajiv) Gurung, BDS gay rights activist, gays are no longer the targets of police brutality and discrimination.

Despite significant gains for LGBT rights, social acceptance from civil society is not guaranteed. “Things have changed a lot in the last one year but we still have a long way to go,” says Pant. “We now have before us the challenge of not only bringing about amendments to existing laws, but also changing attitudes in our society,” argues Gurung. Badri credits the growing clout of LGBT communities in Nepal to the fact that they work as a unified community compared to the situation in other developing nations where LGBTs are fragmented: “In Nepal, all of us are fighting together. And that’s our strength.”

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Robert Badinter at the World Congress

 by Ashok DEB

Robert Badinter, the French senator,delivered a historic speech against the criminalisation of Homosexuality and same sex behavioural patterns.He vividly represented the persecution, discrimination,intolerance and antipathy towards the sexual minorities by the self proclaimed MORALLY PURITAN nations.His speech was greeted with massive  standing applauds.

 

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Robert Badinter (born 30 March 1928) is a high-profile French criminal lawyer , university professor and politician mainly known for his struggle against the death penalty. A member of the Socialist Party , he served as Minister of Justice and then President of Constitutional Council under François Mitterrand.He is currently a Senator for the Hauts-de-Seine département .

He continues his struggle against the death penalty in China and the United States of America, petitioning officials and militating in the World Congress against Death Penalty.

Source: wikipedia

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4th Round of the Universal Periodic Review – February 2009

Report on Bangladesh –

4th Round of the Universal Periodic Review – February 2009

This report is submitted by the Sexual Rights Initiative (a coalition including Mulabi – Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights; Action Canada for Population and Development and Creating Resources for Empowerment and Action-India[1] and others). It focuses on the socio-political rights of the sexual and gender minority communities of Bangladesh particularly with reference to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, Intersex, Hijra, Kothi and other linguistically unmarked groups.

 

First Section: Background

Introduction

  1. Bangladesh was elected a member of the newly formed UN Human Rights Council in 2006[2] and was also a member of UN Human Rights Commission prior to that.
  2. Bangladesh as a nation-state has faced difficulties in terms of governance, corruption and severe poverty right from the very day of its independence in 1971. In 1991 the first democratic government was voted into power supplanting the repressive military regimes that ruled the country for about two decades. Yet endemic political instability and difficulties to ameliorate the situation of the country have continued until the present day. Reports of state-sponsored killing of putatively criminal individuals through its various law-enforcing agencies, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the oppression of religious and ethnic minorities and the unlawful detention of civilians have been some of the characteristic features of the elected governments. Currently under the ‘caretaker government’[3] massive reforms are being undertaken to facilitate a free and fair election. Yet the reports of state-sponsored extra-judicial killings continue unabated even under this new regime. The caretaker government has also routinely been accused of clamping down on freedom of speech and political assembly.
  3. Human rights concerns voiced by the civil society and news media have too often been dismissed by both the elected as well as the current caretaker government as being “anti-state”. It is against the backdrop of these events that the overall human rights scenario and particularly the rights of the people with marginal gender and sexual preferences need to be contextualized.

 

National Legal Framework and Human Rights Institutions

  1. The constitution of the people’s republic of Bangladesh categorically guarantees a denizen’s fundamental rights and civil liberties. Different articles in part III of the constitution[4] prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, sex and caste. There are also clearly delineated principles guaranteeing freedom of expression, personal liberty, freedom of movement and assembly. Yet the complaints about State non-compliance with those principles persist.
  2. Despite earnest calls from different human rights activist bodies no elected government has yet formed a human rights commission in accordance with the Paris Principles. In December 2007 an ordinance to create a Human Rights Commission was promulgated by the caretaker government[5]. However the modus operandi of the commission is yet to be settled.

 

            International human rights obligations:

  1. Bangladesh[6] has ratified the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  2. However, very few strides have been adopted to inject the spirit of these treaties into the sphere of the domestic laws. Moreover the state also failed to submit its periodic reports on measures taken to materialize human rights. The initial report to the UN Committee on Torture was due in 1999 and to the Committees on ICESR and ICCPR in 2000 and 2001. So far Bangladesh has only managed to report systematically to CEDAW and CRC but implementation of their recommendations has been poor. [7]

 

Recommendations for the First Section:

  • To immediately and properly investigate all allegations of state-sponsored extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings; sanction those found responsible and create the required mechanisms to prevent such incidents from occurring again.
  • To effectively and swiftly implement the ordinance creating a Human Rights Commission in accordance with the Paris Principles, and to institutionalize a culture of zero tolerance for violation of human rights.
  • To ensure the rights of women, religious and ethnic minorities, children and other groups subjected to human rights violations in no time
  • To revamp the national laws in line with the spirit of the international human rights conventions to which the state is signatory.
  • To report in a timely fashion to the Committees overseeing compliance with the Treaties ratified by Bangladesh, and to take all necessary steps to implement their recommendations.

 

Second Section: Gender and sexual diversity in Bangladesh

 

  1. There is a culture of collective denial of the existence of same sex sexualities in Bangladesh a fact perhaps attributable to the dominance of Islamic religious sentiments. Given that, there is a lack of public debate about same sex sexualities in the context of Bangladesh. More importantly same sex sexualities are often dismissed as ‘western’.
  2. Traditionally there have been two culturally visible and publicly institutionalized nonnormative gender/sexual subcultures in Bangladesh. One of these is known as the Hijra[8]. Hijra community is comprised of ‘males’ mostly from lower classes who desire putatively ‘macho’ males and often identify as ‘female’ or ‘non-man’. Hijra is a ritually bounded community with strong devotion to both Hindu and Muslim-identified practices. Many Hijras in Bangladesh undergo emasculation or castration. Alongside the Hijra there is also a subculture of putatively ‘effeminate’ males who self-identify as Kothi. Kothis also desire ‘masculine’ males and often identify as ‘females’ or ‘non-man’. While those who join the Hijra generally live as Hijra throughout their lives Kothis subvert masculine gender in marked social spaces like parks and gardens and later vanish into the mainstream society as ‘normal’ males. Kothis are also generally non-emasculated. However one commonality that binds the Hijra and Kothi is their renunciation of socially imposed masculinity. There is in fact a great degree of inter-community migration between these two groups a fact that makes any neat distinction difficult. Alongside the Hijra and Kothi there has also been a proliferation of seemingly ‘western-fabricated’ identity categories like lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender from 2000 onwards mostly among the urban middle and upper class. While the Hijra and Kothi are somewhat publicly visible, the LGBT-identified community is still underground. Nevertheless some of these LGBT-identified groups have started to use public spaces in recent times to hold get-togethers and discussion sessions. For example the International Day against Homophobia was celebrated for the first time in a public lounge under the banner of a gay-identified group in 2008.
  3. Owning to a strong patriarchy no visible female same sex sexual subculture exists. Even in LGBT-identified groups – most of which are still internet-based -there are very few lesbian-identified members. Nevertheless anecdotal evidence suggests that female same sex sexuality exists in every social class in Bangladesh though only in secrecy.
  4. Alongside the Hijra, Kothi and LGBT groups, a wide range of linguistically and culturally unmarked same sex sexual behaviors are also practiced in Bangladeshi society. Many of those practicing same sex sexuality are heterosexually married and do not necessarily identify as bisexual. Marriage being an obligatory social institution, most males and females attracted to same genders enter into the institution of heterosexual marriage and lead dual lives.  

 

           Laws and policies related to same-sex sexuality and gender identity

 

  1. As a postcolonial nation-state Bangladesh retains the infamous British anti-sodomy law known as Section 377[9]. The Section 377 of the Penal Code criminalizes sexuality against the ‘order of nature’ a rather ambiguous phrase that can be stretched to penalize even heterosexual anal sex, cunnilingus and fellatio. The punishments for crimes perpetrated under this section include fines and an imprisonment of up to ten years. 
  2. Interestingly there has not been any case tried or filed under this section in the history of Bangladesh. Nonetheless ‘377’ is said to have been invoked by the law enforcing agencies to bully Hijra, Kothi and LGBT-identified communities.
  3. The national AIDS policy acknowledges the existence of male to male sexual practices[10]. Yet paradoxically homosexuality remains criminalized. There is still no legal framework to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. The 2005 poverty reduction strategy paper highlights HIV/AIDS and the Government of Bangladesh has prepared a national strategic plan for HIV/AID for the period 2004-2010 but it is yet to be seen as to how it gets translated at the level of implementation. Moreover these documents have bypassed the issues related to LGBT and Hijra and Kothi except for slapdash reference to males having sex with males.
  4. There is also no law to penalize ‘male to male’ rape. Rape is still conceptualized within a peno-vaginal framework and is understood to be an exclusively heterosexual phenomenon both culturally and legally[11].

 

  1. Recommendations:
  • To de-criminalize consensual same sex sexuality between adults by abolishing penal code 377, in accordance with international human rights obligations to which Bangladesh is a signatary (such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[12]).
  • To formulate a separate law if necessary to address the issue of male rape  or to broaden the juridical constituency of extant rape laws to include male to male rape
  • To incorporate the issues related to sexual minority community into the national AIDS policy and strategic plans for HIV and AIDS prevention
  • To create a legal framework to protect the rights of the people living with HIV and AIDS.

 

Human rights violations against people with non-normative gender and sexual preferences

 

  1. Gross violations of rights have often been reported in the forms of abduction, arbitrary arrests, detention, beatings and gang rape by the law enforcing agencies and local thugs. Particularly Hijra, Kothi and other ‘effeminate’ males are often vulnerable to these forms of violence[13].There are also extensive reports of physical and psychological molestation of ‘effeminate’ males in academic institutions and workplaces. Most Hijra and Kothi-identified persons who attended schools cite bullying as one of the preeminent reasons for dropout from state sponsored primary schools. Many are reported to have turned suicidal and experienced acute psychological trauma. Left with no options, many turn to prostitution and drugs[14].
  2. There is no legal stance on transsexual surgery in Bangladesh. Nor is there any medical establishment providing for the needs of the transsexual people. The practice of ritual castration popular among the Hijra community involves serious health hazards as they are always surreptitiously performed by ritual cutters in extreme unhygienic conditions. As opposed to the popular belief that castration is forced upon them, Hijras in fact willingly undergo this process.
  3. Too often children born as intersex are subjected to non-consensual “corrective surgeries” by the doctors that potentially can damage their sexual and reproductive health and well-being. There is very little awareness of this issue and no group to lobby against such non-consensual surgeries.
  4. There are very few organizations in Bangladesh working for the sexual health needs of the Hijra, Kothi and males having sex with males[15]. There is no organization with a physical establishment to cater to the needs of the LGBT community. Nor is there any organization addressing the needs of females having sex with females Due to the difficult environment in which they operate, the few organizations that exist restrict their activities mostly to the promotion of safe sex knowledge and distribution of condoms. Moreover HIV preventions efforts often suffer as law-enforcing agencies threaten and blackmail the Hijra and Kothi-identified outreach workers on the ground of Section 377[16]. Consequently the susceptibility of Hijra, Kothi and males having sex with males to HIV and STD gets compounded and the ability of organizations to serve those communities is restricted. So far no organization has taken any step to lobby for the repeal of Section 377 of Penal Code.

 

  1. Recommendations
  • To train up and sensitize the law enforcing agencies so that the AIDS/STD-preventive activities do not get interrupted
  • To carry out systematic documentation of the abuses suffered by the people with non-normative gender and sexual preferences.
  • To introduce medical services in public hospitals for the sexual minority community suffering from HIV and STD
  • To ensure the rights of the NGOs working with the marginal communities like the Hijra, Kothi and males having sex with males.
  • To introduce provisions for ‘sex reaffirmation/reassignment surgery’ for those (grown up transsexuals) willing to transition and to stop non-consensual sex assignment at birth
  • To generate employment opportunities for the Hijra, Kothi and other low-income sexually marginal groups
  • To conduct sensitivity-training with teachers, to make schools safe for children and youth with non-normative gender preferences and expressions as a way to ensure that they will be able to exercise their right to education.

 

Social stigmatization and medical abuses against non-normative sexual/gender identities

  1. While coverage of homosexuality and transsexual identity in the media is rare some newspaper articles written by eminent educationalists and columnists in the popular national English dailies have demonized non-normative identities as ‘unnatural’ and ‘abnormal’[17].
  2. There is also anecdotal evidence that many LGBT-identified persons often receive mistreatments from medical professionals. Though the psychiatric establishment in Bangladesh follows DSM (Diagnostic and statistical manual) of American Psychiatric Association which has removed homosexuality from the list of disease back in 1973, many psychiatrists and psychologists in Bangladesh still  consider homosexuality  as ‘aberrant’ conditions and  provide curative therapies often to the detriment of the mental wellbeing of the LGBT-identified people. Additionally awareness about marginal sexualities and gender identities among the medical professionals in government mental hospitals is very low. Many doctors in these establishments consider homosexuality as ‘psychotic’[18].

 

  1. Recommendations:
  • To hold dialogues at the regional and national level on issues related to same sex sexualities and transsexual gender identities involving all the stakeholders including  medical professionals, rights activists, academics, journalist, religious leader, government personnel and the sexual minority community.
  • To introduce non-normative gender and sexuality issues in the national educational curriculum to dispel prejudices against the lesbian, gay , bisexual, transgender, Hijra, Kothi and other such groups
  • To provide special training sessions for the media so that reporting of incidents of human rights violations against gender and sexual minority communities occur on a regular basis.

 

 


[1] Drafted in collaboration with Adnan Hossain (Adnan Hossain is a PhD candidate in sociology and social anthropology with a focus on gender and sexual diversity in Bangladesh, University of Hull, UK.)

[2]UN press declaration: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/ga10459.doc.htm

[3] Caretaker government is an interim government entrusted with the task of conducting a free and fair election. It originated from a lack of general agreement among the competing political parties about maintaining legitimate means of changing government and holding unbiased election. Through the thirteenth amendment of the constitution the provision of caretaker government was formalized

[4] http://aceproject.org/ero-en/regions/asia/BD/Bangladesh%20Constitution%201972.pdf

[5] http://www.thedailystar.net/law/2007/12/03/index.htm

[6] http://www.un.int/bangladesh/gen/treaties.htm

[7] http://www.southasianrights.org/pdf/hr%20commission2008.pdf

[8] For a detailed analysis of the Hijra and Kothi and the rise of LGBT see Hossain, Adnan (fc) 2008 ‘socio-political review of LGBT Issues in Bangladesh’ in Greenwood Encyclopedia of LGBT Issues Worldwide. Greenwood Publisher, USA.

[9] Bangladesh Penal code, 1898, section 377

[10] National policy on HIV/AIDS and STD related Issues: Directorate general of health services, Ministry of Health and family welfare Government of the people’s republic of Bangladesh. 1995, 1996

[11] For instance section 364, 366, 374 of the Penal Code or the Women and Child Repression Act 1995 are based on a   heteronormative understanding of sexuality.

[12] In 1994 the Committee on Civil and Political Rights understood that penalizing consensual same-sex practices between adults constituted discrimination based on sex and thus violated Article 2 of the Covenant (Toonen v/Australia).

[13] See Bondyopadhyay, Aditya and Khan, Shivananda: Against the odds: The impact of legal socio-cultural, legislative and socio-economic impediments to effective HIV/AIDS intervention with males who have sex with males in Bangladesh. Naz Foundation International and Bondu Social Welfare Society.

[14] See Hossain, Adnan, 2005. Hijras: An examination into the context of marginalization. Unpublished MS thesis. North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

[15] Though more than 380 NGOs are said to be working on HIV/AIDS very few of them address the needs of the males having sex with males, Kothi, Hijra and LGBT community. The only organization with a nationwide health program for males with non-normative sexualities is Bondhu social Welfare Society established in 1997.

[16]  See the report ‘Ravaging the vulnerable: Abuses against persons at high risk of HIV infection’ by Human Rights Watch August 2003 Vol. 15 No 6(c) for some documentation on the obstruction of HIV-related works.

[17] See for example  the article called ‘The move to ban gay marriages deserves special appreciation’ published in a popular English daily available at http://www.thedailystar.net/2004/03/05/d40305150192.htm

[18] Email correspondence by Hossain, Adnan with clinical psychologists practicing as interns in government mental hospitals on 11/8/08

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Comments: This report was forwarded by Adnan Hussein, a PHD student of University of Hull,specialising at sexual and gender diversity in Bangladesh.He has actively participated along with Action India in drafting of this report.He has been associated with BoB for many years and has guided the Bangladshi LGBTI movement from its infancy to the present level of responsible visibility and mature policy endorsements.Presently Adnan Hussein is attending the UN Council in Geneva,where the Bangladesh Government is expected to announce its reaction over UPR recommendations.

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ARDHIS appeals Rama Yade for granting asylum to the persecuted sexual minorities

 

Idaho – World Day against the homophobia: ARDHIS appeals to Rama Yade on the right to asylum for the persecuted LGTBI individuals

 On December 18th, 2008, Rama Yade, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights,sent  a strong message to the United Nations by wondering: ” In the dawn of 21st century,how can we accept that persons are still chased, imprisoned, tortured and executed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.She promoted the universal decriminalization of  homosexuality  which was one of the main missions of her mandate”.

THE ARDHIS  welcomes this commitment but would like to appeal to Rama Yade for  the granting of refugee’s status to those individuals who have undergone the persecutions in their home-country because of their sexual orientation or  gender identity.

ARDHIS is happy that over the last one year, refugee status has been granted to applicants from Bangladesh, Uganda,Tanzania,  Senegal,  Mauritania, Russia, fCameroon and Kenya.But the organisation  points out that the asylum pleas of the LGBTI individuals is virtually never approved by the OFPRA during their  initial demand but mainly after  subsequent appeals in front of the CNDA.

THE ARDHIS has deep concerns and regrets that a substantial number of agents is not trained or informed about the specificity of applications for LGBT asylum.Thus many of the LGBT Asylum please are harshly turned down and the refuge seeking sexual minorities are treated with firm prejudices.

Graver still the ARDHIS is anxious to indicate that certain sections of the jury of  CNDA have an openly homophobic attitude.Homophobic comments were held in particular by a President of the Court against an Afghan last February.

At the same time, the ARDHIS condemns the difficulties of accessing the temporary authorization of stay and the social securities particularly the accommodation. Without papers, money and  accommodation, the everyday life of a persecuted Homosexual is transformed into a ceaseless fight in a country where they came to look for protection!

Finally, along with the numerous associations in defence of human rights, the ARDHIS condemns the list of countries described as ” of  safe origin “ which violates the agreement of the Agreement of Geneva in nondiscrimination of the asylum seekers according to their country of origin.

Thomas,President of Ardhis,at the right side

Ardhis also condemns the list of these following countries where the homosexuality is always considered as illegal: Bosnie-Herzegovine, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mauritiana, India,Mali,Senegal,Mongolia and Tanzania.As a result, the ARDHIS asks insistently for the withdrawal of these countries from the list of nations designated as  ” of safe origin“The organisation also demands the implementation of a training program for the agents of the OFPRA, which is indispensable for raising an awareness  about the specificity of the asylum seekers because of persecution connected to the sexual orientation or gender identity

Paris,May 2009

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This information was forwarded to me from the message board of Ardhis ( French NGO  working for the asylum rights of persecuted LGBTI individuals). The orginal text was in French, I have done some necessary editing and rephrasing of the English machine translation.This article is particularly of relevance to the LGBTI movement in Bangladesh as quite a few asylum cases of persecuted Bangladeshi Homosexuals have been granted by the French Government.I have tried to contact those indivuals for documenting human rights violation against them.But ALL of them decided to remain closetted for the fear of being ridiculed and discriminated  by the Immigrant Bangladeshi community in France. -  Ashok DEB

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IDAHO-T celebrated in Bangladesh

 

By Tanvir Alim

 

International day against Homophobia and Trans phobia, IDAHO-T was celebrated for the second time in Bangladesh this year at the open space of Café la Veranda, Alliance Francaise, Dhanmondi, Dhaka. People from, Shacheton Shilpi Somaj, Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh, Sakhiyani, Boys of Bangladesh, Queer Bangla, BRAC, The Daily Star and other organizations as well as individuals were present in the celebration. This year the participants were not only the homosexuals but also the Hijras and a significant number of homo friendly people such as journalists, researchers, photographers, painters etc. All the participants posted there message against homophobia at the end of the celebration.

 


IMG_02 29

 

  

 

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Bangladesh UPR review- A few contextual recommendations

These notes were taken by SRI (sexual rights initiatives) during the last session of HRC

Bangladesh has stated that it will announce its response to all recommendations it has received at the Human Rights Council’s 11th session (June 2-19, 2009)

  • There were two recommendations on Article 377. Chile recommended “considering abolishing article 377 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexuality against the ‘order of nature’ and the Czech Republic recommended to “decriminalize same-sex activity between consenting adults and adopt further measures to promote tolerance in this regard”.
  • The Czech Republic also recommended to “provide human rights training to law enforcement and judicial officers, with a specific focus on the protection on the rights of women, children and persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity”.
  • Unfortunately, no references were made to HIV/AIDS by the Working Group, even though Dr. Dipu Moni, Minister for Foreign Affairs who lead the Bangladeshi mentioned the work of the inter-faith council “where religious leaders from all communities work collectively for development issues like prevention of HIV/AIDS and reproductive health”.
  • France recommended to “withdraw all reservations to the CEDAW”, and Norway made special reference to reservations to Articles 2 and 16.1 (on equality)
  • On violence against women, Malaysia recommended to “redouble efforts and allocate more resources in this area, in particular through increasing women’s empowerment, public awareness, education and training, as well as increase vigilance and monitoring by the relevant authorities”. Liechtenstein recommended that Bangladesh adopts “a comprehensive strategy to combat all forms of violence against women and girls”, and made special reference to dowry-related and fatwa-instigated violence.
  • The Netherlands, Germany and the Republic of Korea recommended to “ensure that women’s rights are protected, through effective implementation of existing laws and the development of a comprehensive national action plan to combat violence against women”.
  • Norway, the Netherlands and Germany recommending “the adoption of a family code complying with CEDAW’s provisions”.
  • In terms of the National Human Rights Institution, there were recommendations to “give it powers to effectively protect human rights in accordance with the Paris principles” (United Kingdom) and to “take up steps to further strengthen it to ensure that it will be able to operate independently and effectively” (Netherlands, Australia).
  • On extrajudicial killings and torture by security forces, the Netherlands recommended to “address this problem”, while Australia, Czech Republic and Germany recommended to “take steps to address the culture of impunity/adopt further measures to fight impunity/and hold all officers and persons acting on their behalf accountable for acts of torture and harassment of civilians/ human rights violations”.
  • Egypt recommended to “build with international support the national capacities to fulfill the reporting obligations to treaty bodies”
  • The UK recommended to “ensure the full involvement of civil society in the follow-up to this review”.

Suggestions for future work

The period that extends from now to June is key for advocacy. Some suggestions for work during this time are the following:

  • Join other organizations in widely publicizing the outcome of the review, including via the media but also with social movements.
  • Call the NHRC, ask for a meeting to discuss how to work together to ensure that Bangladesh accepts the recommendations formulated to it and involves civil society (and the NRHC) in the follow-up to the review.
  • Call the Foreign Affairs Ministry and ask for a meeting to advocate for acceptance of the recommendations by the Bangladeshi government and full inclusions of civil society in the follow-up to the review.

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