Category Archives: Bangladesh persecution of Homosexuals

LGBT Community Calls for the Repeal of Section 377

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Sam is a university-educated Muslim-born Hindu of 25 years. He is living in Dhaka and works as a university teacher. Six years ago, after graduating from college at the age of 19, he discovered that his sexual orientation deviates from the cultural norm in Bangladesh. Today he is in a romantic relationship with a man. He also has had sexual encounters with women before and describes himself as a bisexual man. Sam and his boyfriend go on trips together, hold hands on the streets of Dhaka and share a bed when staying at each other‟s places. Since male-male friendships are traditionally very intimate in Bangladesh, these practices cast no doubt upon their presumed heterosexual identities. Family and friends consider Sam and his boyfriend to be close friends. “As long as you don‟t come out open to your family, you are safe,” Sam explains. Sam is not his real name. Afraid of the possible social and legal consequences, he agreed to speak only under the condition of anonymity.

Like Sam and his boyfriend, many homosexuals in Bangladesh hide their sexual orientation from their friends and families. “It is easy to live a moderate life with a hidden identity if one is homosexual.” In predominantly Muslim countries, homosexuality is often looked upon as a sin. Accordingly, the consequences of coming out can be severe. Some gay men who inform their families about their sexual orientation are forced into a heterosexual marriage. Other parents consider homosexuality a mental illness and object their gay sons to religious brainwashing or psychiatric treatment. Sam heard of cases in Bangladesh where electric shocks were applied to homosexual men in an effort to “cure” them from their supposed psychiatric condition. He is convinced that, “unless the government, parents and friends understand that a man or woman can be a gay or a lesbian and yet be a very good and devout Muslim, Hindu or Christian, the chances for LGBT (“lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender‟) rights in Bangladesh are low.” Society in Bangladesh is far from that. Homosexuality among men is seen as a morally deprived Western phenomenon that needs to be fended off. “While the existence of gay sex is at least acknowledged by most people though, lesbian sex does not even exist in the dreams of people in Bangladesh.”

The status of homosexuality as a social and religious taboo is also reflected in the Bangladeshi Criminal Code. Its Section 377, a legacy of British rule, refers to consensual oral and anal sex as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and subjects it to punishment up to imprisonment for life. Effectively, this section makes homosexual intercourse illegal in Bangladesh. Interestingly, prosecutions under Section 377 are extremely rare. Section 377, hence, does not impair Bangladesh‟s moderate image in the world and questions about the country‟s human rights record on the issue of homosexuality are avoided in the international arena. Not only in court, but also in mainstream media the issue has largely been ignored. The LGBT community is forced into a shadow existence and its voice is effectively silenced in the public sphere. However, mainly due to new media, times are changing.

Starting out as an online group in 2002, an organization called Boys of Bangladesh (BoB) has become a central forum for gay and bisexual men in Bangladesh. BoB currently has more than 2000 registered members, including school students as well as Ph.D. holders. Their ages range between 16 and more than 50 years. BoB is run by around twenty young men and has increasingly become public in recent years. In November 2010, it conducted the second edition of a festival titled “Under the Rainbow”, in cooperation with the German Goethe-Institut in Dhaka. Under the slogan “accept diversity and end discrimination”, the five-day festival included movie screenings, art exhibitions and musical performances and brought together leading human rights activists from with the country and abroad. Angela Grünert, director of the Goethe-Institut, explains her involvement in the LGBT movement in Bangladesh with the belief that “everyone should have equal rights in the society”, regardless of religion, ethnicity, sex or sexual orientation. BoB organized various other events, mainly in Dhaka, and its representatives attended international conferences on LGBT issues in Nepal and Thailand. The organization further provides homosexuals in Bangladesh with information on health and legal issues on its website at http://boysofbangladesh.org/.

Change on the subcontinent is also happening on the legal front. An Indian court in the country‟s capital, Delhi, decriminalized homosexual intercourse by repealing Section 377 of the Indian Criminal Code in July 2009, saying that treating certain forms of consensual sex between adults as a crime is a violation of fundamental human rights. For Sam, this is a sign of hope. He is convinced that, due to the profound cultural links between India and Bangladesh, the Indian court‟s ruling will spark a public debate on LGBT issues in Bangladesh and encourage the homosexual youth here to fight for their rights. “It is the youth, exposed to international media and increasingly educated, that is empowering the LGBT movement in Bangladesh.”

Some movements in Islam, such as the US-based Al-Fatiha Foundation, accept and consider homosexuality as natural and work towards the acceptance of non-heterosexual love-relationships within the global Muslim community. Progressive Muslim scholars around the world argue that Qur’anic verses on homosexuality are obsolete in the context of modern society and point out that, while the Qur‟an speaks out against homosexual lust, it is silent on homosexual love. However, in Bangladesh, religion remains the single most persistent obstacle for LGBT rights.

The LGBT rights movement in Bangladesh is growing rapidly and the voices for the repeal of Section 377 are becoming louder. The issue is bound to emerge into a public battle over the young nation’s religious and cultural identity, human rights and modernity and will pose a challenge to policymakers, religious authorities and leaders of civil society alike.

Rainer Ebert is a moral philosopher at Rice University in the United States of America. He is specializing in animal ethics and issues of global justice.

Mahmudul Hoque Moni is the founding director of the Centre for Practical Multimedia Studies at the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Dhaka. He is interested in human rights issues, social justice, sports media and visual communication.

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Filed under Analysis of Homosexual Issues, Bangladesh persecution of Homosexuals, Bangladesh- Policies and declarations, Media-Indian Subcontinent

Between invisible friends

Crossposted from Himal Magazine

www.himalmag.com/Between-invisible-friends_nw3911.html

By Delwar Hussein

Bangladeshis thrive in and work against the ‘grey area’ of subtle acceptance of un-discussed alternative sexualities.

From a very young age, Suleman (not his real name) has known that he was attracted to men. He would wear his mother’s saris when she was out of the house, and put on his sister’s makeup in the belief that this is what men found appealing. Suleman also knew that he wanted to be an imam. He sought to understand the creation of the world, to find answers to questions about life after death. At 13 he joined a madrassa, where he began the required rigorous training, which included memorising the entire Quran and learning Arabic and Persian. Small in stature but with an imposing black beard, he is today dressed in a white kurta-pyjama with a matching skull cap. “Imams have a lot of responsibility,” he says. “The Malik has chosen me, even with all my flaws, to follow him. If I can fulfil even the slightest of his wishes, then Allah is pleased.”

Now 32, Suleman believes his education is still not over, although he is a teacher at the same madrassa at which he studied, leading the five daily prayers and also the Friday jumma at one of the largest mosques in Dhaka. His dry, husky voice, a result of the fiery sermons about how to lead an Islamic life, has a cheerful tinkle buried within it. Suleman made the decision to become a religious leader partly in the hope that it would bring an end to the desire he had for men, something he thought at the time to be outside the bounds of religious acceptability. As with the other Abrahamic religions, the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom, used by some Muslims to condemn homosexuality, was a narrative with which he was intimately familiar. In earlier years, Suleman tried controlling his feelings by praying and fasting obsessively, in the process excelling in the eyes of the scholars at the madrassa.

But his urges only became more intense. “All night in the madrassa dormitory, my eyes would see no sleep,” he remembers. “I wanted to be able to care for a man, marry him and give him physical pleasure.” One day, Suleman hesitantly shared his yearnings with a fellow student. They ended up having sex. Afterwards, he was meticulous about following the guidelines set out by Islamic scriptures on fornication. He had already recited a prayer before they slept together and then, afterwards, he went to the bathroom to wash his mouth, hands and entire body. Only then did he go to sleep. In the morning, he prayed for forgiveness and read the Quran. This turned out to be a pivotal moment. For the first time in his life, it dawned on him that what he had done was not wrong. In his prayers that day, he remembers questioning the almighty, “My friend and I needed and wanted to do this. It gave us peace of mind and body. Is this so wrong?”

Grey existence
Suleman hardly represents the norm in the world of Bangladeshi Islamic orthodoxy. “As all the fingers on our hands are of different shapes and sizes, not all imams are the same,” he says with a smile. I ask him whether he believes what he did was gunah, a sin. He has clearly given this much thought. “Love has always existed between men, even in the days of the Prophet, and it always will,” he says. He asks me whether I can name the worst sin a person can commit. I cannot. He replies that it is to give koshto, pain, to another. Giving koshto is the equivalent of destroying a mosque. “He has said that we should love one another, give each other joy and happiness. The Sharia even says this,” Suleman says. “When I am with the person I love, I am giving him pleasure, joy, affection, my body. He is doing the same in return. So where is the gunah in this?”


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International Campaign to Promote Human Rights across Muslim Societies

Crossposted from ILGHRC website

http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/partners/997.html

IGLHRC believes that a vital part of our mission is supporting the work of activist organizations and allies by disseminating important information on human rights issues affecting LGBT communities worldwide. To this end we are reposting the following announcement from one of our partners.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways
Email: irazca.geray@wwhr.org
Tel: +90 212 251 00 29

Human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights have been under attack in all Muslim societies. Rising conservatism, fueled by militarism, increasing inequalities, the politicization of religion and Islamophobia have strengthened patriarchal and extremist religious ideologies. For instance, last week a woman in Turkey was asked to get written consent from her rapist in order to have an abortion which is against all existing legal regulations, while a recent bill passed in the Sudan annulled the prohibition of FGM/C and a new legislation in Indonesia’s Aceh now allows for stoning to death as punishment for adultery, while the bodily and sexual rights of Palestinian women continue to be violated in the shadow of the apartheid wall…These examples remind us again that sexuality is not a private issue but a site of political struggle.

On November 9, 2009, a very diverse group of NGOs will stage bold actions in 11 countries to promote human rights. As part of the historic international campaign “One Day One Struggle” organized by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR), over 20 organizations will hold simultaneous events and public demonstrations on topics like protesting customary practices such as honor killings and FGM/C, overturning discriminatory and life threatening laws like stoning or lashing of women, and calling for LGBT rights, the right to sexuality education and the right to bodily and sexual integrity of all people.

During the Campaign that promises to be a milestone event in the history of the sexual and reproductive rights movement, hundreds will gather in university campuses in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lebanon and the Sudan, at press conferences in Cyprus, Egypt and Malaysia, in conference and concert halls in Tunisia and Pakistan and on the streets of Turkey and Palestine, to assert that sexual and reproductive rights are universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity and equality of all human beings.

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CSBR is a globally renowned solidarity network of progressive NGOs and premier academic institutions in the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia, working to promote sexual and bodily rights as human rights in Muslim societies. www.wwhr.org/csbr.php

To find out more about the Campaign in:

Bangladesh:
Bandhu Social Welfare Organization, Centre for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Naripokkho, Rongberong: sabina@bracu.ac.bd; dmsiddiqi@yahoo.com
Boys of Bangladesh (BoB): xecon27@yahoo.com

Cyprus:
Feminist Workshop (FEMA): feministatolye@gmail.com

Egypt:
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), New Woman Foundation (NWF): eipr@eipr.org

Indonesia:
GAYa NUSANTRA: maria.notes@yahoo.com
Puan Amal Hayati Foundation (PUAN): atashabsjah@yahoo.com

Lebanon:
Meem: lynn@meemgroup.org
Helem: ghassan@helem.net

Maylasia:
Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Empower: vizlakumaresan@yahoo.co.uk

Pakistan:
Vision: ahsan_anwari@hotmail.com
Organization for the Protection and Propagation of the Rights of Sexual Minorities (OPPRSM): kylapasha@gmail.com

Palestine:
Gender Studies Project at MADA Al-Carmel, Arab Center for Applied Social Research: himmat@mada-research.org
Muntada, The Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health: safa.tamish@gmail.com
Women Against Violence (WAV): aida_touma_slima@hotmail.com; wav_org@hotmail.com

Sudan:
Ahfad University for Women: Amani_elkhatim@yahoo.com

Tunisia:
Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (ATFD):ahlembelhadj@gmail.com; childpsy_razi@yahoo.fr

TURKEY:
Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways: irazca.geray@wwhr.org

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Australia tells Bangladeshi asylum seekers ‘Prove you’re gay’

Australia tells Bangladeshi asylum seekers ‘Prove you’re gay’


Source: Sydney Star Observer

By Ani Lamont

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A Bangladeshi couple may have to have sex in front of witnesses to prove they are gay in order to secure asylum in Australia.

The couple, who cannot be named, have been told to prove they are gay when they appear before the Refugee Tribunal for the fourth time in more than 10 years.

Their barrister, Bruce Levet, said short of forcing the couple to have sex in front of witnesses, physically proving their sexuality was difficult.

“I’ve been bending over backwards to try and think of some way to prove these guys are gay,” Levet told Sydney Star Observer. “They don’t frequent gay bars, they are in a monogamous relationship — so it’s not like we can do what would be easiest to do, to get stat decs from different blokes they’ve slept with. One of them is a particularly private person, and they don’t live in mainstream gay society — so it’s incredibly difficult trying to prove this.

“They don’t really know anyone in gay society. They’re not frequenters of gay establishments, they came here together, they’ve lived together exclusively for 20 years.”

The couple came to Australia in 1998 and have been fighting for asylum since then on the grounds that, as gay men, their lives would be at risk if they returned home.

Originally, the Refugee Tribunal ruled the pair would be safe to return to Bangladesh if they lived discreetly.

That decision was overturned by the High Court. However, afraid of a pink tide of refugees, the Commonwealth tried to prove the couple were not gay.

At their second tribunal appearance the men were forced to undergo DNA testing to prove they were not related after it was suggested they were brothers. The tests proved they were not related on the maternal side, but paternal tests were inconclusive and the tribunal ruled the pair were not gay.

At the third tribunal appearance one of the men was asked if he had sex that day and, when he answered yes, if he had used lubricant. When he refused to answer, he was ruled a dishonest witness and the application was again denied.

Levet said he may attempt to get a gay or lesbian psychiatrist to provide evidence or, as a last resort, ask the couple to have sex in front of a witness.
“They’ve said, if worst comes to worst, they’ll do it but they’d regard it as horribly embarrassing and terribly intrusive,” he said.

“I think the assumption is, because these guys are gay, they must live in some sort of bathhouse environment. I want to find a way to disprove this without subjecting them to that.”

~~~~~~

Judge blasts ‘biased’ refugee tribunal

Source: The Australian

By Michael Pelly

A FEDERAL Court judge has denounced the Refugee Review Tribunal for its treatment of a gay Bangladeshi couple, finding it twisted facts and ignored evidence as it heard their claim for asylum.

Justice Jeffrey Spender said the tribunal’s ruling that the men were not homosexual and would therefore not face persecution in their homeland was “not an exercise in honest fact finding”.

The men even took DNA tests to disprove claims they were related, but the judge said the tribunal had “irrationally and indefensibly” found the results indicated they might be cousins.

The tribunal also found that one man was not a credible witness because he refused to answer questions about whether they used lubricants during sex on the grounds such matters were personal. Justice Spender said the tribunal decision was “deliberately calculated” to get round problems caused by a High Court ruling and “not made in good faith”.

“Such a finding is one that is not reached lightly, and unsurprisingly is one that is very rare,” he added.

The case will now return to the tribunal for a fourth time, but barrister Bruce Levet doubts his clients will ever get a fair hearing. “On the last occasion, I was ashamed to be a lawyer and an officer of the court,” he said.

The men arrived in Australia in 1999 and applied for protection visas. The first tribunal accepted they were homosexual but ruled they would not face persecution if they were “discreet about such matters”.

The High Court said the tribunal did not seriously consider the threat of physical harm, including bashings by police, and ordered a review of the decision. This time the tribunal found the men were not homosexual but close relatives who had been married to women. At one point the men became so desperate to prove their credibility, they offered to have sex in front of a witness nominated by the tribunal.

Mr Levet said his clients were “terrified at the thought of having to return to Bangladesh”. They have bridging visas and are living in southwest Sydney.

“The only way the tribunal could find against them was if they stuck to the (second) finding that they were not gay, even though the first tribunal made an actual finding they were gays in a gay relationship.” Justice Spender noted the “improbable” decision of the third tribunal was based on its opinion of the witnesses, which would normally make it immune from review.

But he said it was unfair to declare “J” not credible, simply because he failed to answer a question about lubricants which had been prefaced with “Now you may not want to answer this question”.

He said that the material sought by the tribunal had “the flavour of interrogation” and that the treatment of the DNA tests had been “contrived to support a predetermined result”.

“The tribunal was guilty of bias, in the sense that it was predisposed to making its ultimate finding that the appellants were not in a homosexual relationship,” Justice Spender said.

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We’ll have sex to prove we’re gay, says Bangladesh refugee

720523-gay-bangladesh-refugees

Tribunal ... the men are preparing for yet another appeal. Source: The Daily Telegraph

TWO gay men from Bangladesh who offered to have sex before Australian immigration officials to prove their sexuality will appeal their case for protection visas for the fourth time in 10 years.

The men, who cannot be named, told The Daily Telegraph they feared being killed if their latest bid for refugee status is refused at a hearing later this month.

A Federal Court judge recently criticised the Refugee Review Tribunal for its treatment of the pair, who first applied for asylum in 1999, finding it was deliberately biased against them.

In a scathing summation, Justice Spender found three previous tribunals had unreasonably twisted facts to deny the men were homosexual, using unsubstantiated claims they were brothers who had been married to women.

While a first tribunal found they were homosexual, it refused them entry on the grounds they could avoid persecution in Bangladesh if they “lived discreetly”. The High Court later upheld their appeal stating the gay men faced a “real risk” of harm if they were deported and could not reasonably be expected to live in hiding.

A subsequent tribunal then used an anonymous phone call to contest the men were brothers, a claim later disproved by DNA testing.

Increasingly frustrated by the process, the couple said in a submission: “We are prepared to have an adult witness view us engaged in an act of homosexual intercourse and then attest before you to that fact.”

In a 2007 hearing, the tribunal asked one of the two men “if he and the second applicant have sex in the morning” and “if they used a lubricant.” The 36-year-old said he had been “too embarrassed to answer the personal questions”, with his refusal later used as proof he was a not a credible witness.

Human rights lawyer Bruce Levet, who represents the men, described the tribunal’s conduct as “disgraceful” adding: “I was ashamed to be a lawyer.”

Because the men had lived monogamously for 14 years and did not frequent gay bars or take an active part in the gay community, Mr Levet said they had struggled to convince the hearings of their sexuality claims. He said the Commonwealth had resisted granting the asylum test case for fear of a pink wave of refugees from countries opposed to homosexuality.

The pair, who live in southwest Sydney, fled Bangladesh in 1999 after they say they were stoned, kicked and punched during a violent attack.

The Tribunal will announce a new appeal date on October 18.

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Living on the Extreme Margin: Social Exclusion of the Transgender Population (Hijra) in Bangladesh

Sharful Islam Khan1, Mohammed Iftekher Hussain1, Shaila Parveen1, Mahbubul Islam Bhuiyan1,Gorkey Gourab1, Golam Faruk Sarker1, Shohael Mahmud Arafat2, and Joya Sikder3


1Social and Behavioural Sciences Unit, Public Health Sciences Division, ICDDR,B, GPO Box 128, Dhaka1000, Bangladesh,2Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Dhaka1000, Bangladesh, and 3Badhan Hijra Sangha,Kuril, Dhaka 1229, Bangladesh

ABSTRACT
The transgender people (hijra), who claim to be neither male nor female, are socially excluded in Bangladesh.This paper describes social exclusion of hijra [The term is used in this abstract both in singular and plural sense] focusing on the pathway between exclusion and sexual health. In an ethnographic study,50 in-depth interviews with hijra, 20 key-informant interviews, and 10 focus-group discussions (FGDs),along with extensive field observations, were conducted. The findings revealed that hijra are located at the extreme margin of exclusion having no sociopolitical space where a hijra can lead life of a human being with dignity. Their deprivations are grounded in non-recognition as a separate gendered human being beyond the male-female dichotomy. Being outside this norm has prevented them from positioning themselves in greater society with human potential and security. They are physically, verbally, and sexually
abused. Extreme social exclusion diminishes self-esteem and sense of social responsibility. Before safer sex interventions can be effective in a broader scale, hijra need to be recognized as having a space on society’s gender continuum. Hijra, as the citizens of Bangladesh and part of society’s diversity, have gender, sexual and citizenship rights, that need to be protected.

Read the full article here: http://www.icddrb.org/images/JHPN274-Living_on_the_Extreme_Margin_Social_Exclusion_of_the_Transgender_Population(Hijra)_in_Bangladesh.pdf

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Comments by Ashok DEB:

Joya Sikdar

Joya Sikdar

This research paper has been published by ICDDR- B and prominent Trans Right activist Joya Sikdar has actively contributed to this article. This can be conceived as a step in the right direction as we need the members of the Trans Community to speak out for themselves.Generally the trans population in Bangladesh are unethically utilized by the research workers to gather a glimpse into their secretive lives and societies. Generally these researchers, some of them have even self-appointed themselves Hijra Experts of Bangladesh, have treated these individuals from an anthropological point of view, rather ignoring the massive human rights violations,anti-pathy and societal marginalization these individuals suffer in Bangladesh.

Presently the Trans community needs to identify resourceful members within its own community to steer them into a direction where they can co-exist within the conservative Islamic fabric of Bangladesh. This research paper vividly describes the discrimination, persecution, physical abuses and rights violation that the Trans community in Bangladesh are being subjected to relentlessly.

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Daily Star newsline brews up Transphobia

Committed to PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO KNOW
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 05:04 PM GMT+06:00
Published On: 2009-06-25
Metropolitan
Hijra panic grips city dwellers
Alpha Arzu
City dwellers remain in a state of panic nowadays due to frequent attacks of hermaphrodite (hijras) populace who suddenly come to the houses or make attacks on individuals at different signal points for money or other goods.

Hijras attacked Shamima Akhter, mother of a two-month-old son, at her Gulshan residence where she lives with her husband.

She said, “I went to the veranda after hearing shouting of my guard around 11:00am yesterday and found some five to six hijras beat up my guard as he refused to allow them to the house.”

“I got panicked and called my husband, who was also harassed by the group of hijras. They demanded Tk 5,000 for our kid’s welfare, otherwise they would kidnap my son,” said Shamima.

The doting mother also said, “We finally paid them Tk 2000 after much hard bargaining. We have already decided to change our house from this area as they [hijras] frequently come.”

Runu Ahmed, mother of a newborn, of Sector-13 at Uttara Model Town said, “I’ve been observing some hijras moving around our house in the last few days. On Friday, when my husband and father-in-law went to the mosque for Juma prayers, they entered the house skipping the wall.”

“It was horrible as my mother-in-law was sick, and I just cured after my delivery 10 days before. So, we got panicked and called the police, who rescued us by paying Tk 500 on that day,” said Runu, wife of Jewel Ahmed, a high official of a private phone company.

The couple explained how they had fallen victim to the eunuchs second time just after three days. This time they [hijras] were saying with more offensively: “Police never do anything against us, and as you called police on Friday, you would have to pay more Tk 1000 and the grand total is Tk 6000 today.”

After an hour’s bargaining, the family got relief of the harassment after the intervention of the Rapid Action Battalion, who came to the place after getting a phone call from their neighbour, said Runu.

Officer-in-Charge (OC) ABM Zakir Hossain of Uttara Model Police Station told The Daily Star, “Earlier, we received at least 15 calls each day. The number is on the decrease now.”

“We have met the hijras several times and offered 300 hijras jobs at a time at a garment factory, but they refused to work, he said.

About 150 hijras live in different slums at Uttara, the OC said, adding, “Hijras ensured us at a meeting that they would not charge the exorbitant amount. The amount was fixed between Tk 200 and Tk 500, which was Tk 2000 and Tk 5000 earlier.”

“People now get panicked instead of showing kindness to them for their attacking and offensive behaviour,” said Zakir.

Hijras also attacked the commuters at different signal points where cars and other vehicle stopped for few minutes, said a victim, who recently lost a mobile phone and a wallet from his own car at Mohakhali.

“Suddenly, they come to the car and try to enter the vehicle by force or start to scold in very offensive language and gesture,” said the victim.

The hijras also attack the different construction firms who are constructing the new building. They come to the project site and demanded money, otherwise they take construction materials, including rod, wood and others, which also cost Tk 1000 to Tk 2000, said Mahmudul Hasan Prince, site manager of Nandan Kanon Developers.

Kachi, a hijra community leader of Uttara, told this correspondent, “We are human by born, not by sexual identity; but people always neglect us to live in a society or a family. So, we have to find new ways to survive.

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A text book case how sexuality is enforced upon in Bangladeshi society

0808_194211By 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.

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Bangladesh signs a treaty equating Homosexuality to pedophillia

The United Nations

The United Nations

by Ashok DEB

On December 18, 2008, 66 Countries signed a historic statement presented in the General Assembly that affirmed that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity, condemning rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

On the very same day Syria read out a treaty in response to the  statement previously delivered by Argentina, claiming that there are no legal basis towards non-discrimination of the sexual minorities. This treaty had 57 signatories including Bangladesh, who denounced Homosexuality by equating it to Pedophilia.

In addition this treaty refers to Article 29 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights to enact laws to uphold the puritan morality and and public behavior by denouncing Homosexuality.

The treaty even hints that persecution and discriminatory legalisation against the sexual minorities should not be interferred by the International community as it falls under the Charter of sovereignty of States and priniciples of non intervention.

This is one of the strongest Homophobic statements I have encountered in recent times. I wonder how could Bangladesh which has a progressive AIDS and STD prevention program could become a signatory to this treaty


Response to SOGI Human Rights Statement, read by Syria – 18 Dec 2008

Mr. President,

I have the honor to make the following statement on behalf of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan*, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, St. Lucia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan*, Yemen, and Zimbabwe following the statement previously delivered by Argentina, on behalf of a group of member states on Human Rights and the so-called notions of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”.

On 10 December 2008, the human rights family celebrated the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and once again made an unequivocal commitment to the principles enshrined therein. On that august occasion, we reiterated that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interrelated, interdependent and mutually reinforcing. There was also a universal acknowledgment that in no country or territory can it be claimed that all human rights have been fully realized at all times for all. Member states declared that the full realization of all human rights for all remains a challenge that they shall not shy away from its magnitude.

The principles of non-discrimination and equality are two faces of the same coin. They are indeed cross-cutting principles in the vast areas related to the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Such principles are well-entrenched in the Charter of the United Nations and internationally-agreed human rights instruments, as they all reaffirm the faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women without distinction.

Mr. President, in this context, we are seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the United Nations some notions that have no legal foundations in any international human rights instrument. We are even more disturbed at the attempt to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviors, while ignoring that intolerance and discrimination regrettably exist in various parts of the world, be it on the basis of color, race, gender, or religion to mention only a few.

Our alarm does not merely stem from concern about the lack of legal grounds, or that the said statement delves into matters which fall essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of States counter to the commitment in the United Nations Charter to respect the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention. More importantly, it arises owing to the ominous usage of those two notions. The notion of orientation spans a wide range of personal choices that expand way beyond the individual’s sexual interest in copulatory behavior with normal consenting adult human beings, thereby ushering in the social normalization and possibly the legitimization of many deplorable acts including pedophilia. The second is often suggested to attribute particular sexual interests or behaviors to genetic factors, a matter that has been scientifically rebuffed repeatedly.

Mr. President, we affirm that those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments. We believe that people are not inherently vulnerable but some individuals are made vulnerable due to the socio-economic setting that they live in. It follows that vulnerable individuals and groups are those women, children, elderly, peoples under foreign occupation, refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, migrants, persons deprived of their liberty, and persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, who become vulnerable as a result inter alia of intolerance and discrimination against them.

We strongly deplore all forms of stereotyping, exclusion, stigmatization, prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and violence directed against peoples, communities and individuals on any ground whatsoever, wherever†they occur.

We also reaffirm Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the right of Member States to enact laws that meet “just requirements of morality, public order, and the general welfare in a democratic society”.

We recognize that the enumerated rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were codified in subsequent international legal instruments. We note with concern the attempts to create “new rights” or “new standards” by misinterpreting the Universal Declaration and international treaties to include such notions that were never articulated nor agreed by the general membership. These attempts undermine not only the intent of the drafters and the signatories to these human rights instruments, but also seriously jeopardize the entire international human rights framework.

We call upon all Member States to continue and step-up their efforts towards the total elimination of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

We also call upon all Member States to refrain from attempting to give priority to the rights of certain individuals, which could result in a positive discrimination on the expense of others’ rights and thus run in contradiction with the principles of non-discrimination and equality.

Mr. President, we urge all Member States, the United Nations system, and non-governmental organizations to continue to devote special attention and resources to protect the family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” in accordance with article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To conclude, Mr. President, we also urge all States and relevant international human rights mechanisms to intensify their efforts to consolidate the commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights of everyone on an equal footing without exception.

I would like to mention something that Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are not in the list. Thank you, Mr. President.

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Zee News:Bangladeshi jurist hails Delhi HC judgement on homosexuality

ScreenHunter_02 Aug. 07 19.25

Dr. Kamal Hussein

Crossposted from: http://www.zeenews.com/news546550.html

Updated on Sunday, July 12, 2009, 22:10 IST

New Delhi, July 12: A Bangladeshi jurist on Sunday hailed the path-breaking judgement of Delhi High Court legalising gay sex among the consenting adults saying that the verdict showed judicial courage and creativity.

“The High Court judgement on a petition filed by Naz foundation demonstrated judicial courage and creativity. It also restores fundamental rights of a group of persons and protects them from social taboos,” Kamal Hossain, eminent jurist and former foreign minister of Bangladesh said.

He also said the judgement decriminalising homosexual acts among the adults had drawn international interest.

The Delhi High Court in a landmark judgement on July 02 had legalised homosexual acts among consenting adults holding that the 149-year-old law making it a criminal offence was violative of fundamental rights and not punishable.

Delivering the third VM Tarkunde Memorial Lecture here, Hossain highlighted the role played by the public interest litigations (PILs) in bringing about the social change in both Bangladesh and India.

Despite the criticism that the PILs seems to be moving away from the poor and unprivileged to the middle classes in late 1990s, Supreme Courts of both the countries expanded opportunities for the people by generating jurisprudence, he said.

Hossian, also a former Bangladesh law minister, said the PILs came a long way in removing child labour, expanding right to life and livelihood and protecting women.

Bureau Report

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Homosexuality cannot be legalised in Bangladesh: Justice Rabbani

ScreenHunter_01 Aug. 07 18.45

Crossposted from:  http://www.amadershomoy.com/ content/2009/ 07/04/news0392. htm


Justice Golam Rabbani speaking

Justice Golam Rabbani speaking

Justice Rabbani recently commented with a strong reaction against homosexuality, stating that the Penal code cannot be changed and even if it can be changed homosexuality can never be accepted because the Quranic Law has forbidden it.

Incidently he is perceived to be one of the foremost judicial reformers of Bangladesh, who outlawed the issuance of fatwas by Islamic Courts in a landmark High Court Judgement in 2000. This earned him a notorious infamity among the Islamists who promptly declared Justice Golam Rabbani as Nastic Murtad (Digusting Infidel) with subsequent life threatening  attacks on him.


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AIN-O-SALISH Kendra Report on violation of Human Rights on Sexual Minorities: 2008

 

RIGHTS OF SEXUAL MINORITIES

 

It is difficult to assess the extent of rights violations against

sexual minorities and of state and non-state responses in any

year, given the paucity of reliable information. This chapter

therefore begins to articulate the rights of sexual minorities in

Bangladesh in mainstream human rights discourse by mapping

some of the problems faced by the MSM and Hijra communities.

As will be clear from the text below, the nature of available

data is not only limited but also highly gendered, the focus

has been almost entirely on male to male relations.

 

 

Overview

 

For a number of reasons, including cultural invisibility, a general

reluctance to discuss sexuality in the public sphere, and the

stigma attached to non-normative sexualities, information on

Sexual minorities in Bangladesh are quite limited. For that matter,

most human rights organizations, until very recently, have

not considered the subject of sexual rights to be an obvious part

of their mandate.

Problems of categorization complicate matters further. Non normative

sexual practices and identities tend to be quite fluid,

existing within a diverse continuum of sexualities, rather than

being discrete sources of identity.1 Sexuality may not be the

defining feature of identity; non-normative sexualities tend to

exist without being recognized openly or sanctioned culturally

(that is, they are accommodated but not necessarily named by

the dominant culture), and without being associated with a distinct

community or group. With the exception of self-identified

hijras (trans-gender or trans-sexual persons), social identity

and sexual practice do not necessarily coincide.

Paradoxically, the global HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s,

and related anxieties about “high-risk” groups, opened up

spaces for discussion and activism around matters of sexuality.

Although the discourse tends to be somewhat medicalised, it

has increased both visibility and opportunities for mobilization.


 

Legal/Constitutional Protections


 

There is no express legal or constitutional recognition of non normative

sexualities in Bangladesh nor any specific protection

against discrimination for example on grounds of sexual orientation.

Section 377 of the Penal Code introduced by the British

in 1860, continues to be in force and provides punishment for

“carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” a phrase

widely interpreted as criminalizing sodomy. Ostensibly gender-neutral,

it is usually assumed to refer to men.

Notably, Bangladesh has a fairly progressive National Policy

on HIV/AIDs. Issued in 1997, the document upholds the

protection of the rights of persons affected with HIV/AIDS,

including rights to confidentiality and non-discrimination in

health care access and treatment.


 

Recognition of Identities


 

It can be argued that legal invisibility allows for a degree of

flexibility for sexual minorities. At the same time, for some

groups, legal non-recognition can be highly problematic at an

everyday level. Badhon, a community based organization representing

hijras, has demanded state recognition as a third gender,

and Government issued identity cards to affirm their separate

identity. Not being able to ‘prove’ a clear cut gender meant they

were not able to stand in either the male or female queues during

elections or for any other purpose. They also faced problems

with inheritance, as under personal laws, the shares for men and

women differ: as Hijras are not perceived to be either male or

female, and therefore neither son nor daughter, complications

arise with determining their share of inheritance.


 

Arbitrary Arrest and Detention


 

Although there has been only one reported case involving section

377 in the four decades since the independence of Bangladesh,

the existence of this offence is reportedly used by law enforcing

agencies and others to threaten and harass individuals,

and thus inhibit their free exercise of expression and behaviour.2

In fact, none of the cases reported by or to Bandhu (see below)

involved Section 377 directly, although the threat of arrest under

this law may have been invoked. More significant is the abuse of

Section 54 of Criminal Procedure Code and Section 86 of the

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance (and related provisions in

the police ordinances applicable to other Metropolitan cities)

which are commonly used to harass persons using public spaces.

Indeed, this situation is not very different from that of sex workers

and other socially marginalized groups detained under Section

54 without being shown any cause. And yet, while lawyers

and human rights groups are vocal about the perils of Sections

54 and 86, they have tended to be silent about the specific effects

of these provisions on this community.


 

Incidents of Violence and Harassment of MSM and Hijras


 

Table XXII, drawn from data collected by Bandhu, a support

service organization, indicates the nature of violence and harassment

faced by the MSM (and hijra) population. Underreporting

of such matters is widespread and, presumably, actual

figures are much higher.

 

Table XXII:1 Harassment and Violence on MSM of 2008 (till 16 July)

  

Perpetrator/

Type of Violence

  

 

Police

 

RAB

 

Gangstar

 

 Others

 

Family Members

 

 Total

 

Beating

 

 

   5

 

  

                  9          7              21

Beating and Snatching

 

 

 

  

 

      4

 

   

           4
Forced eviction 

 

  3

 

     1

 

      1

 

   

           5
 Forced sex     1

 

  

 

      1

 

  

 

    

     2
 Suicide        

 

    

 

  

 

      1

 

    1

  Total       9     1

  

         15

  

     1

  

     7

 

    33

 

 

 

 

Bandhu’s records show that physical assault or beating was the

primary form of violence experienced by MSM. Second to

physical violence was rape/forced sex, followed by forced eviction

from public spaces. The main perpetrators of violence are

local thugs or mastans, followed closely by members of law enforcement

agencies, primarily the police. Harassment by the local

population is relatively less common though not entirely absent.

In one reported incident, the taunts and reprimands of family

members resulted in the suicide of an individual.

The justifications for violence directed at the MSM population

signal the dangers MSM, hijras and others face on a daily

basis. An overwhelming majority were attacked for their “feminized”

behavior, that is, simply for challenging socially acceptable

norms of masculinity. Simultaneously, this also apparently

invited and legitimized forced sex or rape – refusing sexual offers

was the second most common reason given for assaults on MSM.

MSM and hijras are in a bind; for once they acknowledge

their sexuality, they appear to lose their right to refuse sexual

offers by overtly “heterosexual” men who feel entitled to the

formers’ sexual services. Extortion and intra-community violence

over the receipts of sex-work is also commonly reported.

Hijras, who are the most openly feminized, face considerable

discrimination in employment opportunities and for many, sexwork

is the most viable source of income since the barriers to

entry are minimal. Social, institutional and legal support for

MSM and hijras are inadequate at best. 3

 

BOX XXII.1: Harassment and Extortion (Names have been changed

to protect the identity of the persons involved

 

 

Anjan had inherited two decimals of land. His older brother, Amjad, put

pressure on Anjan to sell this land to him. Anjan refused at first but was

eventually coerced into signing away the land. After about a month, Amjad

came to Anjan’s house with a group of thugs and evicted his younger

brother and their mother from the premises. When they started to throw

out the furniture as well, local people gathered and protested the action.

Anjan came to Bandhu hoping it would be able to take legal steps to void

the agreement which he signed under duress. Bandhu offered to help Anjan

file a General Diary at the local police station. However, upon hearing

of Anjan’s contact with Bandhu, his older brother retracted from his

original position. He arranged for a mediation session facilitated by local

elites. In a written agreement handed over to his younger brother, Amjad

promised he would no longer pressure Anjan for the land.

While this is not a case of overt legal or social discrimination, it appears

that Amjad felt entitled to his brother’s land because the latter was

“feminized” and therefore not entitled to his legal rights as a male offspring


 

Conclusion


 

There is no research on the incidence of discrimination among

people with non-normative gender/sexual identities. Other than

hijras, the discrimination remains invisible and unstated.

 

1 See Adnan Hossain, Bangladesh Sexual Minorities Encyclopaedia entry and Sharful

Islam Khan et al, “MSM’s Sexual Relations with Women in Bangladesh” in

Culture, Health and Sexuality, March 2005 7(2) 159-169.

 

2 Najrana Imaan and ATM Morshed Alam, Review Paper Analyzing the Existing

Legal and Policy Provisions and Practices with respect to Human Rights in relation

to People Living with HIV/AIDs in Bangladesh, Unpublished paper, ASK

2008.

 

3 See reports on file at ASK received from Bandhu indicating that such requests

for legal assistance involved issues such as violence by a sexual partner, inheritance

claims and pressures for forced marriage.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Comments by Ashok DEB:

For the first time Ain O Salish Kendra have included a separate chapter on the rights of sexual minorities in their annual Human Rights Report. This report is available on Chapter 22, Page 241-244 of Human Rights in Bangladesh, 2008, ASK publication. The editor accepts the severe constraints of high under-reporting of hate crimes and lack of reliable documentations have obstructed in depicting the actual scenario of antipathy towards the different homosexual communities of Bangladesh. This report is based on the data of human rights violation (till 16th June, 2008), provided by Bandhu Welfare Society, the only NGO which runs nationwide welfare programs for MSM and Hijra sex workers. Thus the report primarily focuses on the atrocities and unlawful persecutions committed on these two particular communities only, who are ironically the most visible of all the sexual minorities. A quicker glance on the table XXII yields that a massive third of these atrocities have been inflicted by the law enforcing agencies, while family rejection has driven one soul towards self destruction. It may be appropriate to justify that the actual figures could be presumably much higher as a larger percentage of such crimes goes un-reported.

The concluding words of the report are:

There is no research on the incidence of discrimination among

people with non-normative gender/sexual identities. Other than

hijras, the discrimination remains invisible and unstated.

 

Sadly this report fails to throw any light on the persecutions endured by the Gay and Lesbian community members in Bangladesh due to their cultural invisibility and reluctance to expose their bitter societal approbations towards public scrutiny. Still the gays are being forced into marriages, subjected to psychiatric remedies, electric shock treatments, social boycotts and even evictions from their neighborhoods. The LGBTI defenders who coordinate their activities even at the International level have confessed to conceal their sexuality within family circles. This invisibility has become an obvious setback to stage any resistance towards ending the Anti-sodomy law, hate crimes and discrimination on the sexual minorities. Recently BRAC has pioneered efforts towards meaningful discussions on ending Section 377 (Sodomy Law). Legalizing a harmless practice like Homosexuality and recognizing same sex unions continue to remain a distant dream , due to lack of consensus among the prominent LGBTI organizations over challenging the draconian Sodomy law in courts. The policy of the Government towards recognition of non-normative gender patterns coincides with this very statement of the UPR Report ,FEBRUARY ,2009 which quotes 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.” In the recently concluded UNHRC, June 2009, the Government of Bangladesh has declared that ‘SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS INDEED NOT AN ISSUE IN OUR COUNTRY’ which can rightly be equated with by the parable of Ahmedinijad “THERE IS NO GAYS IN IRAN” Truly the ghosts of invisible persecution and blatant societal marginalization will continue to haunt us for times to come.

 

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