Unrecognised Unacknowledged and Unwelcome: Bangladesh, A country against RAINBOW
By Arman Ahmed
Once again building castles in the air, once again being devastated by the frustrations involved in the process. This has become the iterative story of perhaps the most deprived community in the so-called democratic country Bangladesh. I refer of course to the LGBT community there.
This country is still failing miserably to show democratic behaviour towards the LGBT+ community. A community which has always dreamt of being recognised and welcomed by the government but none of the governments till now, since the day of independence, have demonstrated even minimal interest towards their perpetually deprived citizens. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender.
Similarly, the newly formed Awami-League government wasted no time in disappointing the LGBT+ community, neglecting them, disregarding them as those before them. During the 11th general elections held in December 2018, all the political parties published manifestos where they made promises and commitments to work for people, develop the society, and provide care for underprivileged citizens and many more. But Alas! Not a single manifesto welcomed the acknowledgement of the LGBT fraternity, none of them exhibited any intentions of establishing their rights.
Forget establishing equal rights for people under LGBT umbrella. Bangladesh as a country has failed to provide any security to them. On top of that, there is section 377, a legal path which exists to diminish the existence of the LGBT community. To compound matter, further many Islamic extremists and militants are actively hunting for people who are engaged in homosexuality, bisexuality (and secularism). As soon as these militants identify a member of the LGBT group (a potential victim), they proceed to kill them without wasting any time.
According to sources such as The Independent and Huffington Post, on May 19, 2017, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite security force in Bangladesh arrested 27 young gay men. They were arrested in a community centre where they had gathered on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. While it has been widely circulated that they have been arrested because they were found with illegal drugs and condoms and not charged with homosexuality, an officer involved in the arrest has confirmed that these men were arrested because they were homosexuals.
The rationale behind demonstrating such hostility towards members of the LGBT+ community is that acknowledging the existence of the LGBT community in Bangladesh will make the government less popular in what is Muslim-dominated country. That is where their votes will come from after all. On the other hand, similar to the worldwide outcry about the gross abuse of LGBT rights in Chechnya, the mass arrest of gay men would put Bangladesh in the same situation whereby it will be condemned by the international human rights community. As such, arresting on the grounds of drug possession will serve the dual purpose of not instigating an international media fiasco whilst sending a message to the LGBT community that they are constantly being monitored and none of their activities will be overlooked by the government. This is a deliberate attempt to subjugate the community, which is what the government and the extremist groups have been trying to do over the last few years.
Also On April 14, 2016, Police in Dhaka, Bangladesh arrested four gay activists during Bengali New Year celebrations. Within 10 days of this incident, Xulhaz Mannan, the co-founder and publisher of the first LGBT magazine Roopbaan in Bangladesh and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were hacked to death by a gang posing as couriers in order to gain access to his apartment, in the Kalabagan area of the capital.
It is high time for the government of Bangladesh to learn from neighbouring country India. Indians have recognized everyone’s right to love. The country has decriminalised section 377. This recent ground-breaking, unanimous decision of the country’s top court to overturn a colonial-era ban on consensual gay sex was a welcome affirmation of human dignity. India has shown the right characteristics of democracy. Now the law is protecting everyone, including those under the shade of LGBT.
The members of LGBT community in Bangladesh are trying reorganise themselves. They are dreaming to attain equal rights and live a secured life. Their eyes long to see Bangladesh as a country without the heinous and inhuman section 377. But sadly, the issue is no closer to being resolved and members of the LGBT+ community still fear participating in society, still wonder whther they are safe and sound in their homes. The question also arises: who is a bigger threat to the survival of the LGBT fraternity in Bangladesh – the extremist groups or the government authorities?