Category Archives: Boys of Bangladesh

Human rights: Bangladesh’s LGBT Community and the UPR 2013

Bangladesh will be subject to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on April 29. The UPR is a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that will examine Bangladesh’s overall human rights performance during the last four and a half years. It will be the second UPR cycle, following the first one in 2009.

The UPR aims at improving the human rights situation on the ground in each of the 193 United Nations (UN) member states. Each UN member state is subjected to this review every four and a half years. The reason UPR is important for Bangladesh, or any state for that matter, is the opportunity for stakeholders to submit their own reports along with the one from the government. The mechanism has hence proved to be very popular and powerful in upholding the human rights of marginalized or disenfranchised groups.
The sexual and gender minority community of Bangladesh has also discovered this new mechanism as a way to raise awareness for the violations of their human rights on an international platform. In 2009, based on reports prepared by local rights groups, Chile and the Czech Republic made three recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh that, if implemented, would improve the legal status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Bangladesh.
Two of the recommendations were to decriminalise same-sex relationships by abolishing Section 377 of the Bangladesh Penal Code, which is a remainder of British colonialism. Another recommendation was to educate law enforcers and judicial officers about LGBT issues, and to adopt further measures to ensure the protection of LGBT persons against violence and abuse.
The Government of Bangladesh rejected the first two recommendations, saying that “Bangladesh is a society with strong traditional and cultural values. Same-sex activity is not an acceptable norm to any community in the country. Indeed, sexual orientation is not an issue in Bangladesh. There has been no concern expressed by any quarter in the country on this.” The government, however, accepted the recommendation of training law enforcers to protect sexual and gender minorities.
When Bangladesh comes under review for the second cycle in a few days, more specific recommendations from UN member states are expected to ease the plight of LGBT people. But, given the current political situation of the country, the issue may be dumped way beneath the pile of other issues. That is why it is important that the media, civil society and the community endorse the cause of sexual and gender minorities.
Boys of Bangladesh (BoB), the largest platform of self-identified gay men in Bangladesh, has put forward a number of recommendations from the LGBT community in the stakeholders’ report this year. One of the main recommendations is to conduct a government survey about human rights violations victimising LGBT persons in the country. Such a survey is necessary to learn more about the discrimination, stigma and violence LGBT persons face in Bangladesh, and to develop strategies to address these human rights violations.
The government already has an extensive HIV/AIDS program under the Ministry of Health, which also includes men who have sex with men (MSM) and Hijras. Hence, the government’s claim that sexual orientation is not an issue in the country is only a way to brush aside the realities, and to avoid acknowledging human rights violations of sexual and gender minorities.
BoB thinks that it is time for the government to acknowledge the existence of this clandestine but significant population, and to take appropriate measures to address the violations of their human rights. After all, sexual and gender minorities are part of every family, every society and are integral development partners of the country.

The writer is a human rights activist and a volunteer at Boys of Bangladesh (BoB), a non-registered, non-funded, informal network of self-identified gay men in Bangladesh.

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CSBR Bangladesh: A first for the Queer members of Bengali society

Crossposted from CSBR e-news

http://www.wwhr.org/files/CSBR_Enews_Winter_2009.pdf

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One Day, One Struggle: Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies

Parts of the article have been crossposted from ILGHRC website. Get the original articles here

http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/partners/1026.html

http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/partners/1039.html

Hundreds joined forces across the globe to establish a milestone in the struggle for sexual and reproductive rights in Muslim societies
11/20/2009

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.

Updates from Bangladesh

On November 9, 2009, a diverse group of nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and activists across the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia carried out “One Day, One Struggle” events to promote sexual and bodily rights as human rights. Below are some of the campaign updates, including the national launch of a pioneering research on sexuality and rights; a panel and cultural show on what it means to be a hijra (transgender) in Bangladesh, a discussion on the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran, and a queer-straight alliance meeting in Pakistan

Bangladesh: Pioneering research is being done on sexuality and rights in Bangladesh

Bangladesh: The Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS (CGSH) at the James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) of BRAC University shared the findings of a pioneering research project on sexuality and rights in urban Bangladesh.

The Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS (CGSH) at the James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) of BRAC University shared the findings of a trailblazing research project on sexuality and rights in urban Bangladesh. This exploratory study, the first of its kind, maps the manifold and changing understandings of sexuality, identity and rights among university students, factory workers, and sexual and gender minorities in Dhaka city. Dr. Dina Siddiqi, Sexuality Network Coordinator and Visiting Professor at the CGSH presented research findings on sexuality and rights in Dhaka. Other speakers were Dr. Sabina Faiz Rashid and Dr. Anwar Islam from the James P. Grant School of Public Health, Dr. Hilary Standing from the Realizing Rights Research Consortium, and Dr. Firdous Azim from the BRAC University Department of English and Humanities. A total of approximately 100 participants including journalists from the Bangladesh media, leaders of groups representing people of marginalized sexual orientations, independent researchers, anthropologists, public health professionals and NGO representatives were also present at the panel.

Bangladesh: A First for the Queer Members of Bengali Society

Boys of Bangladesh (BoB) arranged an event titled “Jaago” (Wake-up) with a movie screening followed by an informal public forum targeting the Bangladeshi LGBTT community and its supporters, selected media, other supportive NGOs and the public.

Torch Song Trilogy was screened to a diverse audience and was met with enthusiasm by both queer and straight participants. These two BoB events aimed to increase affirmative awareness and visibility on sexuality, initiate a dialogue around marginalized genders and sexualities, strengthen the bond among the LGBTT community and strengthen the alliance between queer and straight members of Bengali society. One remarkable aspect of these activities was that BoB organized a public event for the first time since its foundation.

Bandhu Social Welfare Organization had a lively discussion on different sexualities and identities as part of the international One Day, One Struggle campaign. In this event, LGBTT community members and their friends shared experiences and ideas about sexuality, identity, norms and freedoms.

Bangladesh: Discussing the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran

Naripokkho organized a panel discussion entitled “Sexuality and Our Rights” which was moderated by Naripokkho member English professor Firdous Azim. Tamanna Khan, the president of Naripokkho and Shuchi Karim, a doctoral student at ISS in the Netherlands working on female sexuality in Bangladesh gave short presentations that were followed by an open discussion on the place of sexuality and pleasure in the Koran. Approximately 30 Naripokkho members participated in this event.

Bangladesh: Being hijra (transgender) in Bangladesh

Kotha from Socheton Shilpi Shongho

Rangberong and Shochaton Shilpa Shangha organized a panel followed by a cultural show, both of which addressed specifically the hijra (transgender) community in Bangladesh. The panel hosted the speakers Ivan Ahmed Katha, the transgender president of the Shochetan Shilpa Shangha Association, Roksana Sultana, a journalist from BBC World, Nasrin Akhter Joli, the Deputy Director of the Hunger Project – Bangladesh and Mumtaz Begum, the former president of the Sex Workers’ Association. Police brutality and other problems faced by hijras on a daily basis were the main discussion topics of the panel. The cultural show afterwards included a musical performance specific to the hijra community that documented “why and how they became hijras, how this played havoc with their lives and how it is that they still love men.”

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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.

########

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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BoB set to be a part of Global CSBR celebration “One Day Struggle”

common_banner2

Banner which BoB will be using for the campaign.

Forwarded by Xecon and BoB

Edited by Ashok DEB

For the first time ever BoB will be publicly holding a campaign called ‘Jaago, One Day One Struggle’ on November 9. It’s a part of the international campaign involving 13 countries to raise awareness around sexuality and bodily rights initiated by CSBR, a coalition of LGBT organizations in the Muslim societies. The venue of this event is kept undisclosed for  security reasons.

BoB’s message board  announced the event by forwarding this e-mail to its members.

On November 9, 2009, a very diverse group of organizations will stage bold actions in 10 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 public forums in Malaysia, North Cyprus and Turkey, in conference and concert halls in Tunisia and Pakistan and on the streets of Palestine, to assert that sexual and reproductive rights are universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity and equality of all human beings.

bob film Boys of Bangladesh is proud to be a party of this international campaign and is     arranging this Film Show for the BD LGBT community to express their solidarity with the campaign. Please join in hands and come in bunches to celebrate and foster diversity which makes each of us unique and dignified.

There is no entrance fee for the film show but do confirm your participation beforehand if you don’t want to see the whole movie standing.

Call: Xecon **********
E-mail: xecon27@yahoo.com

And to get a glimpse of the movie, click here

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0292066/

Xecon,a prominent BoB activist who attended the CSBR seminar in Turkey this September forwarded the following Press Release about the  International campaign One Day Struggle to be celebrated in 11 Islamic nations.

one day 1

Press Release

International Campaign to Promote Human Rights across Muslim Societies

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, 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.

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 contact:

-          Centre for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University: sabina@bracu.ac.bd; dmsiddiqi@yahoo.com

-          Boys of Bangladesh (BoB): xecon27@yahoo.com

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Bangalore felt like second home to me: Tanvir Alim

Submitted by Tanvir Alim

Edited by Ashok DEB

Tanvir Alim ( BoB Moderator ) visited India last month for a scheduled discussion with a Bangalore based LGBT group GooD As You. This group acts as an intellectual meeting point for the sexual minorities of the fastest growing yet an conservative metropolis of India.

On 24th Sep 2009, Tanvir attended the  Good As you Thursday meet which is their  general weekly meeting. Here the Bangladeshi delegate  talked about BoB’s  policy, their members, events, pride and visibility issues which he  found to be very similar with the host organisation.

On returning back home Tanvir expresses, “Actually the whole south India is pretty much like Bangladesh. I felt like 2nd home.”

A few glimpses of southern Bangalore caught through the lenses of Tanvir are presented below:

tanvir 1

Conservatism of Bangalore is slowly adapting to accept and co-exist with the non-normative genders

The Good for You Thurday meet

The Good As You, Thursday meet

__________________________________________________________________________

Tanvir Forwards the ideology and activities of GooD As You, Bangalore Group

Good As You, Bangalore

Good As You is a social and intellectual space for LesBiGay (lesbian, bisexuals, gays and other sexual minorities) people of Bangalore.

Good As You aims to:

  • Create awareness and pride in Indian LesBiGay identities.
  • Promote Indian LesBiGay expressions through Art, Literature and other means.
  • Foster positive and realistic view of Indian LesBiGay relationships.
  • Provide counseling/support/friendship to those who ask for it.
  • To transcend all barriers of gender, language, caste, class, religion, region, color, creed, marital status and reach out to all our brothers and sisters and others who face social or psychological oppression because of their sexuality.

Good As You started in February 1994. It is a safe space for LesBiGay people to discuss, debate, share views and information which will help them to come to terms with their sexuality. It has had at least a thousand participants over the last 5 years.

Good As You meets every week. Discussions in the group range from issues on LesBiGay rights and the paths to tackle homophobia; from discussion on coming out to family, friends and colleagues to relating personal experiences to the group and other activities to make people comfortable with their sexuality.

Besides this, Good As You also brings out a newsletter in both English and Kannada called “Sangha Mitra”.

Good As You helped sponsor the first ever rights seminar organized in India by some students of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

Activities

Good As You Thursdays

The Good As You group meets every week on Thursday at 7pm at the Swabhava office in Bangalore. These weekly meets bring together a group of information technology professionals, lawyers, doctors, artists, fashion designers, teachers, business people, students and others. The discussion ranges from issues such as LGBT rights, coming out to family and friends to general talks on culture and entertainment.  Anyone is welcome to come to these weekly meets as it offers a space where you can be yourself and talk to others who are like-minded.

GRAB Sundays

Every Sunday, half a dozen gay men run in the city’s Cubbon Park. Later, more join in as the group meets for idlis, vadas and coffee at the old-world Airlines Hotel. They call themselves the Gay Running and Breakfast (GRAB) club.  Though for many its just the steaming hot food and conversations, than the running. GRAB happens every Sunday morning at 10.00am. So if you come by then and see a group of men huddled around a few tables talking and laughing animatedly, you will know who they are!

Address: Good As You,

C/O Swabhava, 4th Floor, No. 1,

M.S. Plaza, 13th A Cross, 4th Main Road,

Sampangiramnagar, Bangalore – 560027.

Telephone: 080-22230959

Email: goodasyoublr@yahoogroups.com

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Experiencing CSBR conference in Istanbul

bobComments by Ashok DEB: A prominent gay rights activist who is also a  talented painter from Bangladesh attended the International Conference organized by CSBR in Istanbul last month.Here he writes about the policies and decisions that were adopted in the Conferrence. Turkey is perceived to be a liberal Islamic state with morals and virtues which conform somewhat to the modern International norms. Yet the country has experienced rapid Homo & Transphobia in the recent days, where the atrocities ranged from Hate crimes to even Honour Killings.We hope such dialogues will assist to create an amicable environment where the sexual minorities would be able to live their life a bit more peacefully.


___________________________________________________________________________

Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction.

Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed.

Sexuality is influences by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.“ World Health Organization, working definition, 2004

Over the course of seven packed days in mid-September 2009, I had the chance to take part in the 2nd CSBR Sexuality Institute in Istanbul, Turkey, organized by the Istanbul-based NGO Women for Womens Human Rights (WWHR) “ New Ways, which serves as the international coordination office of the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR). I was there as a represent of BOB. And I have to say those were seven of the most fulfilling, enriching, and thought-provoking days of my life so far, which I shared with 18 other participants from the Middle East and North Africa, South and South East Asia. The 11 “ 18 September 2009 CSBR Institute was a treasure trove, a feast of information and knowledge.
The Institute is designed to advance participants knowledge, understanding, research and advocacy skills for sexual, reproductive and bodily health and rights, while strengthening their theoretical background and analysis of sexuality in Muslim societies and introducing CSBRs holistic and affirmative discourse on sexuality.

To this end, the aims of the CSBR Sexuality Institute are:

To further knowledge on the multi-dimensional and intersecting aspects of sexuality, health and rights;
To develop a deeper theoretical understanding of sexuality through a historical overview and analysis of current debates and research at the global level;
To provide a comprehensive and holistic understanding of sexuality in Muslim societies through a discussion of the history, legal frameworks, research, and current discourses;
To enhance participants’ sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy skills on national and international levels;
To increase participants’ capacity as leading advocates, practitioners and researchers on sexuality issues at national, regional and international levels.

Sexuality is a transfer point for relations of power. Power is not a thing. Its a relation. Its productive, not only repressive. Its not only the property of the state. Its exercised throughout the social body. Everybody participates to some degree in the continuation or modification of existing power relations.

Regards

*******( Name with held)

Boys Of Bangladesh

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Inauguration of Gender & Sexuality Resource Centre GSRC

By Tanvir Alim


On August 17, 2009, the soft inauguration of Gender & Sexuality Resource Centre GSRC, Bangladesh took place at Lalmatia, Dhaka

IMG_2663The proposal of a coalition of the Bangladeshi LGBT people was a logical consequence and a follow up of the first ever LGBT -workshop Boys of Bangladesh (BOB) organized in February, 2009. Since then in just a few months time it came a long way in forming the coalition which aims to strengthen the bond among the diverse LGBT people/groups/organizations and work on the common goals. The members of the coalition feels that it is indeed very important to generate a united effort to make their voices heard and fight for rights. The coalition right now is going towards the process of registration and plans to start its activities formally from January 2010.


IMG_2609More than forty five people participated in the event which includes Royal Norwegian Embassy, CARE, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Naripokkho, Centre for Gender, Sexuality & HIV/AIDS-JPGSPH BRAC University, Bandhu Social Welfare Society, Sustho Jibon, Sacheton Shilpi Shangho, Rong Berong, Shawprovo, Sakhiyani and Boys of Bangladesh. Besides there were activists, researchers, lawyers, psychiatrists and supporters who believes in sexual diversity

______________________________________________________________________

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


.

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Gay, straight or MSM?

In Bangladesh, how you define your sexuality can depend on class, education and family circumstances

There are many in Bangladesh who inhabit a grey area that is neither public nor private, where things that are illegal or socially and religiously taboo are permissible so long as they are not discussed openly. Drinking alcohol, falling in love and disbelieving in God are areas where people rarely disclose their thoughts or activities except in like-minded circles.

Living in such a way protects them from conservative elements of society and allows them to maintain cordial relationships with family and friends. Suleman, an imam at one of the largest mosques in Dhaka, lives with this kind of contradiction every day. None of his family or colleagues suspect anything about his relationship with his male partner, who is publicly acknowledged as “just a friend”. This is not so difficult to comprehend. A few years ago Suleman married a woman. Having fulfilled his social and religious obligations in both public and private matters (they have two children together), he is free to continue his relationship with his “friend”.

Suleman is well aware of the consequences if knowledge of his “friend” became public. He could be thrown out of the mosque or physically punished; there are many who think a man loving another man is among the worst sins a person can commit. Suleman himself believes it is very important that gay Muslims be allowed to marry, as a way to avoid promiscuity. Called upon by gay friends to bless their relationships, he performs readings from the Qur’an and prayers at such ceremonies.

In this regard Bangladesh is hardly any different from other conservative societies around the world, but new ideas are cautiously surfacing. The Bandhu (“friend”) organisation provides healthcare and support for men who have sex with men. It says that 7%-15% of Bangladeshi men over the age of 15 (that is between 2.5 million and 5.25 million people) have sex with another man at least once a month (most will do so while they are single and stop once they get married).

Saleh Ahmed, who runs Bandhu, stresses that the people it works with are not “gay” but fall within the looser category of “men who have sex with men” (MSMs). According to Ahmed, there are two main differences between the categories: MSMs have sex just for “fun” or “physical release”, without the emotional and identity implications of a gay relationship. The second difference between being gay and MSMs is that of class. MSMs generally have low-paid, menial jobs. Gay men come from a middle and upper class background; they tap into a wider, global gay identity and its trappings.

MSMs have very few choices in life, hemmed in as they are by poverty, social exclusion and threats from STIs including HIV/AIDS. This is exacerbated by marginalisation at the hands of their wealthier brethren, and has even spawned terms such as “LS” (low status) to refer to working class gay men and “HS” (high society) to indicate the more affluent.

Although Bangladesh’s anti-sodomy law (section 377 of criminal code) seems to have fallen into disuse, the police regularly stop, harass and even arrest working-class MSMs under other laws, according to Ahmed – so repealing Section 377 will not prevent any of this. For Ahmed, it is more important to focus on fighting for access to healthcare and educational services. Education at the grassroots levels is the key to this. Bandhu holds “sensitisation workshops” where the police, local elected bodies, journalists, doctors and lawyers are educated on the problems MSMs face. It also provides training on HIV/AIDS, and international and human rights laws.

“Our kind of work is far more crucial to the everyday lives of men who have sex with men than attempting to repeal this outdated law,” Ahmed says.

While most MSMs are poorly educated, the internet has become a crucial resource for the middle and upper classes. Boys of Bangladesh (BOB) is an online group with 1,700 members who explicitly define themselves as gay. The forum allows people to make friends, meet potential partners and disseminates information and advice.

Shakhawat Hossain, the group’s “moderator”, is typical of the young Dhakaias that BOB appeals to: in tune with international fashions and technology, privately educated, taking foreign holidays and preferring sushi to shutki (the traditional Bengali dried fish).

BOB’s aim is to develop a lifestyle first and then discuss rights and equality. Hossain says “MSM” refers just to sexual behaviour – which he finds insulting. To be gay on the other hand refers to sexual attraction, emotions, partnership and love, “far more complicated and less palatable for the orthodoxy”. He wants section 377 to be repealed, since from the offset it considers gay people to be criminals.

Whatever the result of BOB’s coming-out or Bandhu’s efforts to stay in the grey area, this will not stem the tide of educated, middle-class gay people leaving Bangladesh. One reason for this is for simple economics. Attracted to wealth, status and a particular kind of consumer-obsessed lifestyle, middle-class gay people are no different from their heterosexual counterparts.

The other reason is the perceived freedoms western countries offer homosexuals. At the turn of the 20th century gay men from the west, writers such as William Burroughs and Tennessee Williams for example moved, ironically by today’s standards, to Muslim countries where they found the atmosphere to be much more liberal towards homosexuality. Now, the movement is in the opposite direction.

The problem with this rainbow exodus is that the very group of people who are in a position to confront the issue of inequality in Bangladesh, to bring about change by using their influence, are the ones leaving.

I ask one gay man leaving for Australia whether he is willing to publicly declare his boyfriend in Bangladesh. His answer is frank. “I’d die if my parents and friends knew I was gay. Not because they’d kill me, but because of shame. I’m leaving so that I can do what I want without anyone here knowing about it.”

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Bangladeshi LGBT NGOs discusses over Section 377A BPC

ScreenHunter_01 Aug. 12 18.43

Submitted by Tanvir Alim ( Moderator of BoB )

Edited by Ashok DEB

2nd July, 2009

Today James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) of Brac University arranged a group discussion on Section 377 A BPC among prominent Bangladeshi LGBTI NGOs.The day itself is quite eventful as the Delhi High Court of neighbouring state India set a landmark judgement  by decriminalizing Homosexuality. This has raised some obvious hopes among the LGBTI defenders of our nation to seek out possible avenues for a repeal of a similar  Sodomy Law in Bangladesh. Todays meeting had specific proposals and agendas to build up  co-ordination and solidiarity between the groups representing diverse homosexual communities in the country.

But the purview of Section 377 A has a wider scope other than homosexuality. This Sodomy Law of Section 377 A proves to be the only deterrent in absence of any specific legalization against male rape, molestations or child abuse. Prominent Bangladeshi NGOs like Bandhu (BSWS) believes that repealing of Section 377 A will not end the violations against the sexual minorities. Infact the defunct Section 377 A is regularly utilised by the law enforcers and police to harass, torment and illegally detain the MSM and Hizrah community members.Thus educating the sexual minorities about their legal rights, creating awareness among the law enforcing authorities and the judiciary could mitigate the present ongoing persecution against these exposed communities.

At the seminar it was universally decided upon that definate legal action planfor a repeal of 377A should be taken in such a way that does not adversely impact or destroy any homosexual communities. Thus maintaining the coalition of LGBTI welfare NGOS is of utmost importance and priority. It was also marked that creating  media awareness about the existence of the Homosexual communities is more important at this stage compared to the challenging of  Section 377 A. Generally Bangladeshi sexual minorities remain highly closetted to avoid societal discmination or ridiculing. This invisibility has proved to be a major obstacle towards launching any viable rights movement for the sexual minorities. The very lack of visibility is comfortably certified by the Bangladeshi Government as ” Sexual Identity is not at all an issue in our country” (UNHCR June 2009).

Unlike India where the similar Sodomy Law was widely utilised by the Government to harass and convict AIDS prevention activists, the Section 377 A BPC is virtually defunct in Bangladesh. Infact Bangladesh has a very progressive AIDS and STD prevention policy and its advisory board even includes prominent social workers like Saleh Ahmed (Bandhu).  Section 377 A BPC has never been utilised to hamper any activities directed towards prevention of communicable diseases among the Homosexuals. Infact in 40 years of history of the nation there exists only a single case of conviction under 377 A exists (refer Ain O Salish Kendra report 2009).So at this moment sensitization against the defunct 377 A might backfire and we may wake up a sleeping giant.

One of the major recommendations from the discussion was to make combined efforts for media sensitization at local level as well as in the decision-making level. In the summary it was proposed that NGOs should more actively engage in conducting workshops on gender training , where sexuality should be included.This could prove to be an active measure to promote an awareness that Homosexuality is not perverse or unhealthy, but a natural human tendency as endorsed by the modern medical findings.

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Filed under Ashok DEB, Bandhu BSWS, Bangladesh LGBT events, Bangladesh- Policies and declarations, Boys of Bangladesh, Tanvir Alim

BoB discusses UPR recommendations with LGBTI legal activist Sara Hossain

By Tanvir Alim

5th May, 2009

ScreenHunter_02 Jul. 28 19.38

Barrister Sarah Hussein, speaking at an Ahmedia conferrence

BoB delegates met with the eminent LGBT lawyer activist Sara Hossain, who is also associated with Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS). The agendas on the discussion were related to UPR recommendation over Bangladeshi LGBT issues, Section 377 A BPC and the legal obstacles encountered towards registering the newly formed coalition of LGBTI groups. Sara has confirmed her active participation towards working with the sexual minorities and assisting the coalition in necessary legal matters. At that meeting the participants were informed about existence of an UPR Forum of prominent Bangladeshi NGOs. However, presently the Forum does not include any plans of advocating the UPR recommendations over LGBTI issues. BoB activists are making concerned efforts to get in touch with the UPR group to raise the issue. The discussion was organised at Shireen Haq’s (Naripokko) place in Dhanmondi, who expressed her commitment to help BoB grow.

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

 

Submitted by Tanvir Alim

Edited by Ashok DEB

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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