LGBT+ Rights in Bangladesh
By Saiful Islam
In Bangladesh, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights are blatantly disregarded. Due to the traditional mentality of a predominantly conservative Bangladeshi society, negative attitudes towards those in the LGBT community are high. Homosexuality has been illegal under Bangladeshi law since 1860, when it was governed by the British Indian Government. Till today such acts are punishable by life imprisonment, a hefty fine, even though this law is not enforced always. It is still dangerous for those who identify as LGBT to openly come out in society, out of fear of communal rejection, shame, assault or worse, murder.
The condition of the Bangladeshi LGBT community is deplorable. They lead very miserable lives. According to Bangladesh’s Constitution, same sex marriage is not permitted and is a punishable offence. According to Section 377 of the Bangladeshi Penal Code:
“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description that is, hard labour or simple for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
By introducing the abovementioned law, I intend to show the world that the status of the LGBT community in Bangladesh is downright miserable. You will even hear hear tales of how sons and daughters are disowned when their sexual orientation becomes an open secret.
According to Independent, recently authorities in Bangladesh arrested 27 men on suspicion of being gay, again a criminal offence in the Muslim-majority country. They plan to charge them with drug possession, an official has said. A commander of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite police unit that made the arrests, said the suspects, mostly students aged 20-30 years, had travelled from across the country and were picked up in a raid on a community centre at Keraniganj, outside the nation’s capital. Zahangir Hossain Matobbar said they recovered illegal drugs and condoms in their possession and plan to charge them with drug offenses and not homosexuality, because they were detained before they actually engaged in any intercourse.
This incident sparked an under the radar national depletion, as scores of gay men and lesbians women have left the country, after being exposed, subjected all manner of abuse and subsequently receiving death threats. Many still live double lives to avoid any social backlash because of their sexual identity.
The LGBT community in Bangladesh are at a juncture where they feel threatened for their lives from the extremist groups and at the same time they cannot ask for help from police, as the country has Article 377 in their constitution.