Category Archives: Tanvir Alim

Samakamita: The first Bengali book on homosexuality

This article was forwarded to me by the author Avijit Ray in early January this year. I apologise to the readers that my health conditions and a few contextual circumstances did not allow me enough liberty to blog for the last six months.


Comments by Tanvir Alim (BOB) : As a  science writer, and an engineer by profession, the writer attempted to provide scientific view and  accessible account  of homosexuality on several bases. In the first half of my book, he explored historical and biological issues. Here he tried to explain the scientific/biological bases for homosexuality, both from historical perspective and the extent to which modern science has gotten in this area of research.  In Part II, he addressed human rights issue and ongoing struggle of gay community in Bangladesh and beyond.

It is probably the first book in Bangla providing an overview of the complexity of issues that surround the culture and and study of homosexuality. Avijit Roy found himself honored to write  such a book in Bangla which he thinks will make significant contribution in gay rights issue in Bangladesh.

This is how the author described his work.


My new book on Homosexuality is going to be out Today. The Bangla name of the Book is Shomokamita – Ekti Boigganik O shomaj monostattik Onushondhan (Homosexuality – A scientific and socio-psychological investigation)- and it is being published by Shuddhashar (a book store in the 2nd floor of Aziz super market) within a few days. In this book, I have attempted to provide a scientific view and accessible account of homosexuality on several grounds. In the first half of my book, I explored historical and biological facts. There I tried to explain the scientific/biological bases for homosexuality, both from historical perspective and the extent to which modern science has been exploring its area of research. In the second part, I addressed human rights issues and ongoing struggle of gay community in Bangladesh and the rest of the world. It is probably the first book in Bangla providing a detailed overview of the complexity of issues that surrounds the culture and involving the study of homosexuality.
I have kept all the information about the book here:
The book will be found in upcoming Bangla Academy Book fair in February, 2010. There are some important discussion going on in some Bangla blogs as well, such as

I am not a gay. However, I am very sympathetic towards gay rights and similar humanitarian issues. You may ask – why did I took responsibility to write such a book? The answer is, over the time, I have seen sufficient incidents to distrust, despise, assault or even slaughter fellow people for having differences in religion, nationality, race or color. While the intellectuals of Bangladesh has been covering those issues, no body took onus to uphold the plight of “hidden minorities” i.e. gay and lesbian people of Bangladesh.  In this book, I hope to bridge the gap, providing an introduction to available knowledge on homosexuality from an eye of a sympathetic heterosexual person and a human rights activist. Hopefully together we will be able to remove the fear of homophobia, perhaps the last acceptable prejudice, from our society.

Please send the message to your friends who are interested to collect the book. The book will be found in shuddhashar (in Aziz super market), and will be available in upcoming Bangla academy  Book fair in February, 2010.
I convey my gratitude towards all including you who were directly/indirectly involved with this book!
Thanking you
Avijit

প্রকাশকঃ শুদ্ধস্বর (আহমেদুর রশীদ চৌধুরী)
৯১ আজিজ সুপার মার্কেট (৩য় তলা)
শাহবাগ, ঢাকা।
ফোন : ৯৬৬৬২৪৭, ০১৭১৬৫২৫৯৩৯


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Goethe Institute-Dhaka hosts photo exhibition on male homosexuality

Submitted by Tanvir Alim

Compiled and Edited by Ashoka DEB


The Goethe-Institut acts as a liason centre of the foreign cultural policy of Germany. Currently the centre is hosting Under the Rainbow’ festival which showcases several programmes  employing the popular medium of dance, film and photography. The main theme of this event is to discover the beauty of loving , realising and revealing who and what you are, while breaking down the culture. A strong and bold statement indeed, in a nation where inter personal relationships are bruised,battered and dictated through pre-determined puritanistic norms and societal scrutiny.

Goethe will screen a few path breaking movies which have left lasting impressions in the field of gay rights and feminist movements.I will provide you here with a brief synopsis of the scheduled movies.

Brokeback Mountains:

In this story, two young men meet and fall in love on the Brokeback Mountain in Wmoying in 1963. The film documents their complex relationship over time and how they succumbed to the social norms of getting married and publicly deny their affection. This film somewhat mirrors  and reminds us of the typical end of  relationships which the closetted Bangladeshi gays are forced to face over time.

If those walls could talk :

Its a fascinating movie which depicts the plights of three different women and their experiences with abortion. Each of the three stories takes place in the same house in three different years: 1952, 1974, and 1996.  The movie vividly depicts each women’s experiences or to be more precise the helplessness across their individual circumstances demonstrating the dictates of puritan society over her own body. A very strong yet touching feminist film indeed.

Fried Green Tomatoes:

This film portrays how a timid housewife who is unhappy in her marital relationship befriends a tomboyish women, who teaches her to assert her rightful share of joy and later finally garners courage to invite her lesbian lover for a live in relationship. A textbook demonstration of transformation or metamorphosis what we non-normative genders aspire and dream of.

Photo exhibition:


I first saw the works of Ghazi Nafis on his project “Community” across his website which portrays the state of homosexuality in Bangladesh. Ghazi, a photo journalist of repute, often works on social issues for the oppressed and suppressed communities , and the Bangladeshi homosexual community is no exception to this.His images make subtle yet powerful statements about the severely depressed psychological state of the Bangladeshi gays who have pushed themselves deep inside the closets to avoid approbations of any sort.  I have noticed that many global LGBT activists consider internet based associations formed by party loving Bangladeshi gays belonging to the higher social strata as the sole barometer of  same sex culture. Ghazi Nafis has painstakingly caught the glimpses of those Forbidden Relationships which blossom secretly across closetted indoors, yet violently denied in public by cautiosly meandering away from societal scrutiny to mitigate harshness and ridiculing. Yes, his lenses caught the glimpses of real state of homosexuality or gay culture in Bangladesh in truest form, the way it exists and has always existed……the CLOSETTED WAY.



You can have a look at his works at the  PHOTO EXHIBITION ‘Looking at Inner Face’ which is scheduled between December 12, 06:00 pm – December 26 at Goethe Institute Dhaka

Location:


House 10,

Road 4 (new), Dhanmondi R/A,

Dhaka, Bangladesh
For more info mail
intern2@dhaka.goethe.org
Or log on to the Website:
http://www.goethe.de/dhaka


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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

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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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Workshop by Centre for Gender,Sexuality and HIV/AIDS

Submitted by Tanvir Alim ( Moderator BoB)

A follow-up workshop has been organized by the Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS on the 8th of October, 2009.

This whole day event brought together participants from two previous workshops held in March and May: the first on Sexuality, Health and Media and the second on Gender, Sexuality and Rights. The primary objective was for both groups to share the following experiences with us and with one another.

# The extent to which participants have been able to apply insights from the workshop in their professional life and in the community at large.
# The obstacles and challenges participants have faced in doing so.  Possible strategies they have found to overcome these obstacles.
# Participant’s thoughts on missing needs and gaps or issues not addressed in the earlier workshops.
# Possible ways the Center can provide support to those working on issues of sexuality and encourage more interest in the subject.

The workshop allowed them to track progress and challenges and plan future activities accordingly.  Based in part on participant’s feedback, Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS are already planning workshops with senior editors of newspapers and senior personnel of relevant private sector organizations.

The welcome remarks of the workshop were from Dr. Farah Mahjabeen Ahmed, Coordinator continuing education program, school of public health. Special address was Dr. Golam Samdani Fakir, pro vice chancellor; BRAC University The agenda of the follow up workshop includes the following

  • Analysis of findings and pinning down main obstacles, common points and divergence
  • Group work on ‘Way forward and role of the centre’
  • Documentary screening on the murder case of Shima: Dushshomoy [a mothers Lament] and discussion

Those of participants who have been actively involved in working on issues of sexuality and rights will be considered for center’s future workshops and conferences as well.

In the group work session on ‘way forward and role of the centre’ several remarkable points came down some of which are stated below:

  • Campaign with movies, group work, debate and interactive workshop for adolescence children at couple of selected schools of a particular area
  • Use of ICT tools such as live web streaming, mobile SMS to create awareness.
  • Media and talk show producers can initiate the issue for their program
  • A slogan can be introduced to create awareness among the mass people of the society
  • Sensitizing social leaders and opinion leaders like Imam, teachers and others in urban and rural areas
  • Area based representative from BRAC to explain and sensitize local government and development organizations as well as media
  • South Asian idea sharing as we have almost similar social context

Please note that one follow up activity to the Sexuality and Media workshop had a competition for publishing articles on sexuality. Those who competed successfully received a cash award and certificate at the follow up workshop.

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Comments by Ashok DEB:

Centre for Gender,Sexuality and HIV/AIDS is an UNAIDS collaboration project.Through a formal agreement between UNAIDS and the BRAC University School of Public Health (BSPH), the Centre is designated for research, policy, advocacy and training activities utilizing the state-of-the-art methods and technologies of teaching/learning and providing unique opportunities in hands – on field experience in dealing with gender, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh and other developing countries.

Some of its Major Objectives include:


i. Creation and generation of knowledge: Multi disciplinary research to highlight the nature implications and the socio – political dynamics of gender, sexuality/sexual rights and HIV/AIDS as well as innovative policies/ interventions in addressing these issues.

ii. Promoting a creative discourse on gender, sexuality and HIV/AIDS: Providing a space for experts, academics, researchers, practitioners and policy makers to come together to generate new ideas through open discourse on gender, sexuality/sexual rights and HIV/AIDS in resource poor settings.

iii. Dissemination of information, experience and knowledge on gender, sexuality and HIV/AIDS:

Organizing seminars, workshops and conferences to widely disseminate knowledge and information among all stakeholders – nationally, regionally and globally.

iv. Building Network and Partnership: Actively collaborate and work with other centres, agencies and organization across countries and cultures to promote the Centre’s vision and mission through building networks and partnerships.

v. Advocacy for Change: Interacting with policymakers and other stakeholders to promote change in policy, programme and interventions aimed at further enriching the lives of the poor and the marginalized populations suffering from gender discrimination, sexual/sexual rights violations and threatened and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.

vi. Capacity Building : Organize short courses and training programmes aimed at building/further enhancing the capacity of communities, planners, programmers, researchers, policymakers as well as advocacy groups in addressing effectively multifarious issues underlying gender, sexuality /sexual rights and HIV/AIDS .


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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

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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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Bandhu event show to empower the MSM and Hizrah community

bsws

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 address:shahid@bandhu-bd.org

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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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Bandhu(BSWS) Voices against Section 377 A BPC

Submitted by Tanvir Alim


As a part of policy and advocacy initiatives, Bandhu Social Welfare Society BSWS arranged an open discussion titled “Voices against 377 – Regional Experience Sharing of Advocacy” on 7th July 2009 at the head office of BSWS. Ms. Madhu Mehra from Partners for Law and Development, India made a presentation followed by the open discussion.

BSWS was formed in 1997 to address concerns of human rights abuse and denial of sexual health rights, and provide a rights-based approach to health and social services for one of the most stigmatized and vulnerable populations in Bangladesh, kothis/hijras and their partners. Over the years it has emerged as a national ‘MSM’ non-government organization currently providing social and health services to a broad range of ‘MSM’ in 11 districts.

A core objective of BSWS work with MSM and Hijras is to advocate and provide for an environment where the respect and dignity of all MSM/Hijras, irrespective of their specific gender and/or sexual identity, or the lack thereof, is assured, along with the creation of a supportive social, policy and legal environment to enable MSM to more effectively respond to sexual health rights and basic human rights in our country, along with increasing their    health seeking behaviors.

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U.S. Embassy in Dhaka celebrates LGBT Month

Submitted by Tanvir Alim

The US Embassy, Dhaka

The Diversity Committee of U.S. Embassy Dhaka celebrates and honors America’s diversity with events throughout the year. Under LGBT Month events sponsored by The Diversity Committee, there were Hijra Community Panel Discussion on June 24, 09 and A film show “Out of the Past: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Rights in America” on June 29, 09

A panel discussion with Hijras and NGO workers took place in the Sundarbans Conference Room of US Embassy. For more information, please contact at DhakaDiversityCommittee@state.gov

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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.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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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IDAHO-T celebrated in Bangladesh

 

By Tanvir Alim

 

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

 


IMG_02 29

 

  

 

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