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.