Category Archives: Bangladesh Trans Issues

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

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:


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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Filed under Analysis of Homosexual Issues, Bangladesh persecution of Homosexuals, Bangladesh Trans Issues, Islam and Homosexuality, Media-Indian Subcontinent

Laila Hijra passes away

Crossposted from the Bideshis Blog.

The words in the article WE and US refer to Sebastian Rist and Aude Leroux, two indviduals who are working on an documentary project on Bangladeshi Transexuals.

Picture of Laila Hijra in 2008-courtesy of Maciej Dakowicz

We got the news that on Tuesday september 18th, Guru Laila Hijra passed away.

Even though certain Hijra groups tend to clash, everybody could agree that they highly respected and admired Laila Hijra. Being one of the first Hijras in Bangladesh to speak out publicly  about their community’s  issues, Laila gained notoriety both on a nation and international level. She was one of the founding members and president until her death of ‘Shustha Jibon’; the first (and officially recognized by international ngos) Hijra community center of Bangladesh.

Shustha Jibon is one of the places where we teach our English classes to Hijras. We met Laila Hijra when we tried to convince her and her team to let us come and help out. Quiet and reserved, Laila was very kind and open to our idea, giving us advice but also being very efficient and organized with her decision making.We thank her for accepting us into her community, and we thank her for  giving us the opportunity to meet such wonderful people. Without her, our project wouldn’t be where it’s at right now.

I can’t imagine how the members of Shustha Jibon are feeling right now.

Are thoughts are with her friends and her family.

To view more pictures from Maciej Dakowicz click here

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Evergreen Documentary Project receives French funding

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 13 15.12

By Ashok DEB

Sebastian Rist and Aude Lerox are two dedicated individuals  working on an educational documentary project on Bangladeshi Transexuals, namely the Hijra community ,who are worst affected by societal anti-pathy and Transphobia. Sebastian and Aude have been staying in Dhaka for over an year now and runs three schools for the Hijra Communities. In fact these two individuals could be perceived as the next generation Hijra experts on Bangladesh,who have gained considerable insight of this impoverished and highly margnalised community.

Recently they have released a demo version of their documentary where few glimpses of societal atrocities and rejection on  Bangladeshi Trans community were framed.They have received assistance from a French production House for their project which was announced in this email below.

Hey people,

We’ve been waiting for the right moment to tell you, but we just recently signed a contract with a French production company. This is great news because it means that we will be guided by a team of professionals who will be there to give us support and advice along the way. We still have total creative control over the project and idea; the only difference is that the budget is slightly higher and the 52 minute Documentary has to be completed by the end of the year.

That said,  after a few delays we can officially say that the shoot will begin Sunday. We’ll try to post some production stills along the way. We’re really excited, Salma and Pinky are too!

Thanks to everyone  (Both in Canada and in Bangladesh) who have helped us get to where we are now,

Stayed tuned, there will be more to come,

Seb and Aude


This is the demo release of their documentary project:

In English Subtitles:

In French Subtitles:


Filed under Ashok DEB, Bangladesh LGBT events, Bangladesh Trans Issues, Media-Indian Subcontinent, Media-International

Evergreen Demo version released

Evergreen, a documentary & educational program currently in progress:

Evergreen is a documentary currently in production in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The demo was shot with a reduced crew and edited with personal equipment. This segment hopes to highlight the characters and style of the upcoming documentary.

Visit the following links to see the demo movie file:

In English Subtitles:

In French Subtitles:

Visit link to download demo move file:

To see how you can take part in this project please download the following PDF:…

For more info please visit:

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Filed under Bangladesh LGBT events, Bangladesh Trans Issues, Islam and Homosexuality, Media-Indian Subcontinent, Media-International

EVERGREEN: A documentary project on Bangladeshi Transexuals

ScreenHunter_01 Aug. 26 17.48ScreenHunter_02 Aug. 26 17.57

ScreenHunter_03 Aug. 26 18.01

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Filed under Bangladesh Trans Issues, Islam and Homosexuality, Media-Indian Subcontinent, Media-International

Daily Star newsline brews up Transphobia

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 05:04 PM GMT+06:00
Published On: 2009-06-25
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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Filed under Bangladesh persecution of Homosexuals, Bangladesh Trans Issues, Media-Indian Subcontinent

Hijras take to Dhaka catwalk in unique awareness campaign

Wed, Aug 19th, 2009 1:00 am BdST

By Fahmida Wadud Chaity

Dhaka, Aug 18 (—The audience at a show titled “Agony and Ecstasy,” at the National Museum on Tuesday, were treated to a unique event as Hijras took to the catwalk in a fashion show as part of the programme’s aim to to sensitise the larger community on transgender issues.

The programme, also aiming to create awareness about the risks of HIV/AIDS and drug-use, was organised by the Bandhu Social Welfare Society, which works for the wellbeing of the socially excluded “males and their partners” through the provision of sexual health services, support of their human rights and alternate livelihoods.

Shale Ahmed, executive director of BSWS told, “They are regularly stigmatised in many ways, which harm their self esteem. They tend to think they are useless. They feel isolated and excluded.”

“This particular programme is a part of our protest against the stigma. It is an effort to make the community feel empowered.”

The fashion show aimed to showcase the Hijra/transgender sense of fashion and style. Their vivid make overs, performance and attitude on the catwalk expressed self-belief and appeal.

“We wanted to give them a sense of empowerment, so that they can feel they too can contribute in the society.”

People from all walks of society attended the “dazzling event”. Tisa, a trendy young member of the audience, said, “I really liked it. It is amazing to think that a Hijra fashion show can take place in Bangladesh.”

The chance to perform in a glitzy fashion show, at the National Museum auditorium, in front of a diverse audience will certainly boost the Hijras’ confidence and at the same time sensitise people about their issues, Shale said.

Asked if BSWS had any intention to promote ‘Hijra culture’ in the larger community, he said, “We are in exactly in the process of doing that. Bringing many of them together from different parts of Bangladesh was very difficult. They were scattered before coming under our umbrella.”

“But those who were interested to work for their own community, we gave them the chance by setting up their own centres.”

The centres, named Shustho Jibon (Healthy Life), are managed by the Hijras themselves. BSWS’s role is to provide logistical support.

The Hijras, who find few opportunities to make a living outside the sex trade, gain self-esteem, vocational and life skills training such as sewing and dancing, as well as information on the risks of drug-use, HIV/AIDS and other STDs through the centres.

Speaking of society’s prevailing attitude to this marginalised and stigmatised community, Shala said, “The way they are, they are. It is not a matter of right or wrong. It is our problem that we cannot accept them.”

BSWS envisions a society where every person, irrespective of their gender and sexuality preferences, is accepted as equal.

Twenty-eight year-old Payel, who took to the catwalk that evening, said, “I am so happy to be here and taking part in the fashion show.”

Payel, who joined Shustho Jibon 11 years ago, said, “We are working for our own well-being and human rights.” She said they also try to check HIV/ AIDS and other STDs within their community.

“I have gained confidence joining Shustho Jibon, and of course after taking part in this show tonight!”

None of Payel’s family came to cheer her on the catwalk but, on a personal note, she told that her family did keep in touch with her.

Payel is lucky. Many Hijras are disowned by their own families. “Initially it was tough to convince my family about my activities and our community. But now they are fine with it,” she said.

“I am what I am from the day I came out from my mother’s womb. There was nothing to do about it, but to accept it,” said Payel.

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Filed under Bandhu BSWS, Bangladesh LGBT events, Bangladesh Trans Issues, Media-Indian Subcontinent

Bandhu event show to empower the MSM and Hizrah community


Submitted by Tanvir Alim

Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS) is organizing a cultural show scheduled for August 18th 2009 evening at National Museum, Shahbag, Dhaka. The main events of the day will be Dance performances from different groups and a Fashion show. This show is intended to empower the MSM and Hijra community population and raise funds. The prices of the tickets are Tk 500, Tk 200 and Tk 100 only. For information about the programme, contact Mr. Shahidul Alam, convener of the programme on email

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Every 3rd day the murder of a trans person is reported

Trans Murder Monitoring Project reveals more than 200 reported murders of trans persons in the last 1 1/2 years

In April 2009 the international NGO Transgender Europe (TGEU) in cooperation with the multilingual Online-Magazine “Liminalis — A Journal for Sex/Gender Emancipation and Resistance” started a new project, the /Trans Murder Monitoring Project/, which focuses on systematically reporting murdered trans people on a worldwide scale.

The very preliminary results of the first step of this project have revealed a total of 204 cases of reported murders of trans people world wide in the last 1 1/2 years. 121 cases of murdered trans people have been reported in 2008. From January to June 2009 already 83 cases of murdered trans people have been reported.

Furthermore, the preliminary results show an increase in the number of reports of murdered trans people over the last years. Since the beginning of 2008 the murder of a trans person is reported every third day, on average.

The cases have been reported from all six World regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The majority of cases have been reported from Latin America and North America. On these continents the majority of cases have been reported from Brazil (59) and the U.S.A. (16) for 2008 and from Brazil (23), Venezuela (20), and Guatemala (10) for the first six months of 2009. Moreover, the preliminary results show a total of 11 murdered trans people reported for Colombia followed by 5 for Honduras and 4 for Mexico and Venezuela for 2008, and 6 for Mexico and 3 for Argentina, and the Dominican Republic for the first six months of 2009.

In total 91 murders of trans people were reported in 11 Latin American countries in 2008, and 73 murders of trans people in 11 Latin American countries in the first six months of 2009. The reported murders of trans people in Latin America account for 75% and 88% of the world wide reported murders of trans people in 2008 and the first six months of 2009 respectively.**

The preliminary results also reveal that murders of trans people have been reported in 5 European countries in 2008 (Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey) and in 4 European countries (Russia, Serbia, Spain, Turkey) in the first six months of 2009. In Asia murders of trans people were reported for Iraq, Malaysia, and Singapore in 2008, and for India in the first six months of 2009. In Oceania murders of trans people were reported for Australia in 2008, and for New Zealand in the first six months of 2009. In total the preliminary results show reports of murdered trans people in 22 countries in 2008, and in 17 countries in the first six months of 2009.

The preliminary results furthermore reveal some terrifying details on the nature of these crimes. The data shows that in 2008 six of the victims were minors and in the first six months of 2009 three minors were among the victims. One of these minors, 15 year-old Leticia King from Oxnard (USA), was shot twice in the head by a classmate in front of the whole class. Apart from these brutal murders, 5 of the reported murdered trans persons in 2008 were found tortured or dismembered, 2 were shot by retired policemen, and 3 were executed in police stations. 5 of the reported murdered trans persons were found tortured or dismembered in the first six months of 2009.

The preliminary results of TGEU’s and Liminalis’ Trans Murder Monitoring project are presented in form of a report, tables, name lists, and maps in the new issue of Liminalis ( in English, Spanish, and German.


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Filed under Analysis of Homosexual Issues, Bangladesh Trans Issues, International - Persecution of Homosexuals, International Trans Issues, Media-International

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




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.





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)



Type of Violence











Family Members










                  9          7              21

Beating and Snatching









Forced eviction 









 Forced sex     1


















  Total       9     1













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




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



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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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


  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:

[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





[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

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


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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Filed under Analysis of Homosexual Issues, Bangladesh persecution of Homosexuals, Bangladesh Trans Issues, Bangladesh- Policies and declarations

The end of road for Diana Hizra

By Ashok DEB
As a sexual minority if you have encountered any Human Rights Violation or know about any individual who has undergone traumas, persecution and social apporobation because of their sexual identity feel free to report it at 
This report has been published courtesy Tanvir Alim (BoB)

Recently Bangladesh is riding on fresh waves of Transphobia as the torture on the Transgendered Community (HIZRAS) has been on the rise.The most common form of atrocities is RAPE and EXTORTION mastered by the cadres of the political parties or the police.Social apathy rejection and marginalisation has pushed many of the trans individuals into the shadowy world of prostition and crime. A Transgendered Individual named Diana,was brutally raped, murdered  and her battered body was  dumped in a Lake of Rampura Project on 1st February 2009.She was abducted by some suspected anti_social misceants from her residence by 31st January.The police confirms that the investigations are underway but no significant breakthroughs have been achieved yet.It is highly unlikely that the killers of Diana who probably belongs to the gangs of  goons and musclemen of the elite political parties will be ever brought to justice as the Transgenders have very little social recognition or acceptance  in Bangladeshi society .Till recently the Sexual Minorities of Bangladesh lacked a common platform to register and keep track of the Human Rights Violation of the Homosexuals.Hence countless numbers of brutal tortures and inhuman atrocities over the Hizra community has gone largely unreported.The International community continues to remain in dark about the persecution of the Sexual Minorities in Bangladesh and subsequently they fail to address the Bangladeshi Government for ensuring safety and providing more social and legal  recognition for the Homosexuals.




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Filed under Ashok DEB, Bangladesh persecution of Homosexuals, Bangladesh Trans Issues, Tanvir Alim