By Ashok DEB
I was undergoing my usual routine of checking the emails when I stumbled upon this message. The desperate sender frantically sent this message to a number of LGBTI defenders of the sub-continent on the early hours of 17th JULY 2009.
The email read this:
Dear Friends, hope & trust you all are fine or hope you all are pretending to be fine. I am John (co-moderator) . I am from Bangladesh. I am Gay & I am proud to be Gay. But I am not happy. Because, my family knows about my homosexuality. They were somewhat moderate first time. But recently they have changed their masks and became somewhat homophobic. I could not write long time to the group because my family attacked me physically. I was injured.I went to the Police Station. But they did not allow me to file a case or General Diary. Police sayed, ”You are a feminine type boy. Tell me are you Kothi or drug-addict or prost? We are not allowing you to file a GD. Its a silly family matter. So we do not deal with this types of silly matters.” Then they called my dad & told him to take me back to home (hell). My dad, mom, sister & even my younger brother bit me to death. I was seriously injured. One of my friend came to help me. Otherwise, I could be killed. Now I am rather better. And now they are saying to leave home. They have given me nottice to leave home within 7 days. My partner does not live in Bangladesh. So he is helpless. Now could you please tell me, Gay means Happy or Unhappy? Can you tell me when the domestic violences will be abolished? Can anyone tell? When will my Bangla become SONAR BANGLA & GAY BANGLA? Friends, we need to go a very long way, our journey has not finished yet, its just started and we do not know our destination ! Well, friends, you take care. And be fine or pretend to be fine when you are being killed by your family, society, religion & state! Bye for now. Pink Salute! In solidarity – John, co-moderator
So I could figure out that it was John Ashley, moderator of an online gay networking group called BAG ( Bangladesh Association for Gays ) in Khulna. I have never met John in my life and chances are dim that it will ever happen. But this email sent shivers in my spine as I could correlate the psychological stress this individual has been subjected to.
Sexual minorities are not safe in Bangladesh. Or in other words, they are safe as long as they can carefully conceal their sexual identity and deny their preference of same sex partners. They are safe as long they are closeted, invisible and undetected. Visibility and expressing their desired sexuality exposes the homosexuals to immense societal approbation and segregation. To mitigate this harshness most of them have chosen the comfort of the dark self denial closet.
Unfortunately the law of the land as well the puritan mindset of the Bangladeshi society brands an individual as a criminal for his non normative gender patterns. And such individuals are subjected to severe societal scrutiny, ridiculing, abuses as well as raging homophobic attacks. Generally the source of violence could be traced out from
1. Family members
2. The society or self proclaimed morality minders of the society
3. Lastly the Law enforcers or the police.
In case of John Ashley it was his family who went on aggressive over him beating him so severe that the individual feared his end. In the Middle Eastern Islamic society we have incidents of honor killings of gays by their own family members. In this case it may not be equated to a similar attempt, but the aggressors tried to dominate the victim and alter his sexuality through their brute force.
In many cases, the persecution is much more subtle. The gays are forced to break off their same sex relations and enter traditional nuptial bonds to fulfill their family and religious obligations and traverse a path of unending unhappy life. These are the dictates of the society. In fact John was a lucky that he lived in a somewhat secular urban location, inhabiting in a rustic ambiance surrounded Islamic mullahs could have earned him fatwas or harsh social punishments too.
Lastly the law enforcers. Generally I have seen the worst atrocities against the sexual minorities have come from the police, the same who are supposed to offer protection and safety to the society. The general notion of the law enforcers is that the sexual minorities are morally degraded souls, who indulge in all sort of perverse activities from prostitution to drugs. John ran to a police station to save himself from those individuals he feared is a possible threat to his life. Instead the police accused him of being a MSM, pervert and drug abuser and handed him back to those who posed a grave danger to John’s existence.
The question obviously arises why did not police register a General Diary against John’s parents who were severely homophobic under any measurable yardstick ? Why was John denied the very basic legal right that he was entitled to? By what logic did the police release John back to his parents? Only reasoning I could find behind it that the police too endorsed the same attitude as John’s homophobic parents that his sexual orientation could be straightened out through aggressive physical torture and violence. This attitude of the law enforcers are not only obnoxious but even CRIMINAL. In any civilized nation this could have earned the police officials a dismissal from their sevice, but here in Bangladesh they will be hailed as the true morality minders of the sexually puritanical society, thanks to Section 377 A BPC.
Lastly John’s parents are threatening him with an eviction from the house, a tactic that John would give a greater priority to his survival pressures over sexuality. These attempts of enforcing a particular sexuality on an individual could be truely conceived as barbaric and brutal under the modern human rights norms.
I am in deeply concerned about John, all I could do is wish him safety and luck.