June 16, 2009
Internet in Bangladesh was an expensive affair even in the new millennium. Only the privileged upper class y had access to the virtual world.IRC fast became a popular chatting platform where a room for Bangladeshis was created and soon it was a major hub for Bangladeshis worldwide to mingle and giggle. The platform also helped queer Bangladeshis find each other using witty but effective pseudonyms obviously for security reasons.
Owing to the massive popularity and rapid expansion of the internet, local entrepreneurs opened up chatting rooms and the first one to lead that was BDChat. This being a site with lots more facilities, BDChat gained attention in no time and soon people were joining in numbers, which of course included quite a few gay men. These men were scattered and kept in touch only through mobile phones and Internet. There was no gay community as such though a need for unity had been identified. BOB (BoysOnly_Bangladesh) was created on 2nd November 2002 arranging the first ever offline get-together on 7 December. A few brave men who dared to meet in broad daylight in public place. On 25th December 2002 BOB was deleted by Yahoo without any warning. BOB was reopened on 4 Jan, 2003 with a slightly different name BoysOnlyBangladesh. BOB remained discreet and went on with its highly guarded get-togethers and it grew slowly but steadily. Since the first get-together there has been at least one get-together every month with more and more people attending. The security concerns increased in parallel to this expansion.
Initially membership was restricted and people could join only by invitation. The moderators invited people they knew from chatting rooms, dating websites and through other people. The group was listed under the adult category and could not be found by a regular search. Even after invitation if a member wanted to join, he had to go through a formal procedure of writing an application to the moderators giving a brief introduction, a name (not necessarily a real one), age, location and how he got to know about the group. Only after getting a filled out application, would moderators approve an application. This was done because of the obvious security concerns.
In 2006, a new management team was formed who decided to radicalize the BOB by changing the membership system and becoming more visible. And the result was overwhelming. In just a month, the number of members reached a whopping 600+ from 300. The offline events also got bigger and better. Parties were introduced along with regular film shows, river cruise, picnics etc. A new permanent “hangout” was also selected where we all would meet together at a particular time of a particular day and eventually this became a common place to meet. The idea was to create an option for people just to drop by and have a casual fun meeting. Visibility became a new strategy.
BOB members were already forming friend groups among themselves and were meeting outdoors quite bravely. They were more comfortable with their sexuality and weren’t afraid to flaunt it publicly. A community, a sense of belonging was ultimately formed giving the strength and inspiration to move forward.
The risk of becoming visible was taken and it turned out to be positive. As a part of security plan for this visibility BOB started sending letters to the daily news papers talking about gay issues. The response was mixed with some great support and extreme criticism. Safe sex campaign was also initiated and lots of members were encouraged to go for voluntary HIV testing. As a result, in 2006 BOB had a meeting with the then country representatives of UNAIDS and facilitated a survey on sexual diversity carried out by ASK.
After the country went into emergency rule with recent caretaker govt. coming into being, BOB ceased all its regular activities to avoid any negative reactions. 2007 saw no offline events and the year went by without any activism. The political situation didn’t even permit heterosexual parties. In 2008 when the political situation stabilized, BOB revived its regular parties and started organizing get-togethers. On May 17th 2008, BOB celebrated the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO) launching its logo and plans for future events. It was the first event where BOB appeared openly as a gay group with the approval of the restaurant. For the first time a public venue recognized BOB and its crowd. With pride we displayed our logo and rainbow symbol all over the venue.
In these years lots of other e-groups have been formed with different promising slogans, but none of these groups have managed to survive. The initial careful steps helped BOB a great deal to gain the trust of its members and to be at the position it is now. BOB plans to stick to the strategic approach and move forward cautiously for days to come.
Comments by Ashok DEB:
This manual for the Protection of LGBTI Defenders has been adapted from the New Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders Researched and written by Enrique Eguren and Marie Caraj, of Protection International (P I). This manual has been produced for the benefits of the Human Rights Defenders and can be produced, quoted and photocopied for non-commercial purposes as long as the source is acknowledged.
You can download this manual (English Version) from this following link:
The case study on BOB, e-groups a case study: BoysOnlyBangladesh- BOB appears on page 109 in the hard copy of the Protection Manual for LGBTI Defenders. However strangely that very page 109 is missing across the downloadable version of the manual.
Great strides by Boys Only Bangladesh
March 31, 2009 · 2 Comments
a gay prade in kolkata,india
by Ashok Deb
I remember this Online yahoo goup which was acting as a platform for meeting points of gays in Dhaka.Recently the group has become more active outside the virtual world and is trying to bring unity and cohesion among the different LGBT , Transexual and Human Rights Groups in the country.During my tenure in Dhaka I heard that the group was submitting drafts to various Human Rights Organisations and the mdia to recognise the Homosexuals as sexual minorities. Presently the newly appointed owner of the group Himadri seem to be more optimistic about the recognition of same sex unions and repealing of aticle 377 A.
Personally i believe that the social approbation and antipathy is still strong against the gays due to lack of proper knowledge and studies on the subject.I will provide an article published in Mukto Mona online site about the psycho-physiological reasons for Homosexuality.IT IS A FACT THAT AN INDIVIDUAL HAS NO CONTROL OVER HIS SEXUALITY.This has been proved by the modern scientific studies.But unfortunately our nation is traversing on the path of Talibanisation by the fundamentalist groups who are nourished by the fundings from the Wahabists of Saudi and Kuwait. The semi-literate masses of Bangladesh are either totally deluded by the failure of transperency and integrity by our elected Governments or they simply succumb to the Radicalist ideals of an theocratic statehood as the Islamists dominats thm by sheer force.Bangladesh infact has become a haven for Islamic militancy and fundamentalism which has spread deep tentacls even within the security forces and the Army.I blame Azam Meers tenure as the intelligence chief of DGFI,when the Jehadist supporters were aided to make inroads into the states sensitive administrative and defence poitions.The recent BDR revolt is the clear indication as well as a lesson for the Government for the tough times ahead.
I want to wish Himadri all the best for his leadership tenure in Boys Only Bangladesh.He has been busy lately for conducting first ever workshop on sexual diversity .I appreciate and salute the vigour and enthusiam of this Gay Rights activist. After bing appointed the owner of Boys Only Bangladesh Group this was his message to the members
Dear friends, Though the online activities of BOB seem to have taken a back seat, especially the message board, BOB has never been this busy offline as it is now in 2009. To begin the year with, we had the first ever workshop on sexual diversity and coalition building among all LGBT groups in Bangladesh. The workshop itself then fueled a lot of activism and work for days to come. As we try our best to juggle our personal works and BOB activities, we sometimes wonder if we are going too fast leaving you all behind. So here’s an update on the works we have been doing and some events to look forward to.
# Publication: As you all know BOB is going to publish its own magazine on a regular basis from now on. We have already formed a team to work on it and a call for write ups has been placed. We have also started to get very good response from you all. We plan to collect, edit and finalize the write ups by this month and launch the magazine on May 27, when we will also be celebrating International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) in style.
# Training: A training for interested people on gender and sexuality has started from today (March 28). Through this training we envision to bring out some promising activists from you, educate ourselves on this diverse and complex issue of gender and sexuality, learn and share from each other, and at the same time strengthen our bond of friendship and solidarity. This is a 3 months long course with fortnightly sessions on the weekend. And most importantly its FREE! Our first day session went awesome today!
# Advocacy: Some of you might know, in the universal periodic review of human rights by UN, Bangladesh was given some recommendations with specific focus of sexual diversity and repealing 377, which criminalizes any unnatural sex act. Our Govt is due to officially response to these recommendations in June. So right now, we are lobbying to penetrate the Govt and ultimately make it to address these recommendations. We are in touch with some reputed human rights organizations and lawyers to get the job done.
# Forming an organization: We are seriously thinking of having our own physical entity, form an organization and take the effort to the next level. As we all feel, a registered organization is a must to work effectively for our causes. We have been having some meetings lately as to how this organization should be formed and its missions and vision should be. BOB might have it’s own office anytime soon!
# Entertainments: We have filled out the 2009 calendar with some great entertaining events for you. Exact dates of the events will be notified in due time.
April: 1) An exclusive screening of ‘A Jihad for Love’ (the movie is not released on DVD yet, but BOB has a copy coming directly from the Director:) )
May: 1) A Day out in Water Kingdom
2) Celebrating IDAHO and launching of BOB Publication
June: 1) Musical Evening with our own stars
2) Celebrating Stonewall Riots Day
July: 1) Film Screening 2) Lifestyle Show
August: 1) 2nd Issue of BOB Publication
September: 1) Fashion Show followed by DJ Party
December: 1) 31st Night Celebration on a Cruise Ship Well guys, that’s pretty much the updates for now. Look out for the upcoming events and send your suggestion, support and warmth our way. We look forward to a great 2009. Cheers Himadri