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LGBT rights in Bangladesh are not respected, with LGBT people facing discrimination, verbal and physcial abuse, and unique legal and social challenges. Same-sex sexual activity, whether in public or private, is illegal and punishable with fines and up to life imprisonment. Consequently, Bangladesh does not recognize a marriage, civil union or domestic partnership between adults of the same sex. As of 2012, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has not been prohibited by a civil right law in Bangladesh. Likewise, no law exists in Bangladesh to address harassment against the LGBT community, and there appears to be no organized movement to advance LGBT rights.

Constitutional and criminal code[edit]

The constitution has several provisions that could apply to LGBT citizens:[1]

  • Part II Article 19 – Promises equal opportunity for all citizens.
  • Part III Article 27 - Promises equality before the law for all citizens.
  • Freedom of religion and the press are both promised, but subject to restrictions based on "decency or morality".
  • A citizen is not eligible to be a member of Parliament if they are convicted of a "criminal offence involving moral turpitude".

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".[2][3]

Social attitude[edit]

Although public display of affection between friends of the same sex in Bangladesh is commonly approved and does not raise any controversies, there appears to be a strong objection towards homosexuality as such.[4] This hostile attitude results from religious tradition of the country, with Islam being professed by approximately 90% of the population, and mentality of Bangladeshi society. There appears to be an intense social pressure to marry someone of the opposite sex, grounded in patriarchal model of the society. Non-family members, including police and religious fundamentalist groups, have been known to blackmail, harass and even physically attack LGBT people. These "morality minders" are not sanctioned by the government, but they take advantage of the absence of civil rights and hate crime laws for sexual and gender minorities.[5]

In 2003, Dr. Gary Dowsett, an Australian professor, published a report titled A Review of Knowledge About the Sexual Networks and Behaviours of Men Who Have Sex with Men in Asia as part of a study on how the AIDS pandemic is impacting the nation.[6] The bulk of the report focused on male prostitution, but it did generate some public discussion about LGBT issues, with Indian movies and water poisoning through arsenic being blamed for making homosexuality more common.[7] In reply, some people criticized these negative viewpoints as being unsound scientifically and based on prejudice.[8]

A research-based engagement with a school of public health at a university in Bangladesh recently aimed to raise public debate on sexuality and rights in a very sensitive political context. By bringing together stakeholders, including members of sexual minorities, academics, service providers, media, policy makers and advocacy organisations, the research engagement worked to bring visibility to hidden and stigmatised sexuality and rights issues. Critical steps towards visibility for sexual minorities include creating safe spaces for meeting, developing learning materials for university students and engaging with legal rights groups.[9]

Bangladeshi LGBT organizations[edit]

File:Bangladesh LGBT rainbow flag.svg
A rainbow flag for Bangladeshi LGBT people designed by John Ashley

The first attempt to create an LGBT community in Bangladesh came as late as in 1999, when a man called Rengyu, described as a "middle aged foreign educated guy from an indigenous tribe", opened first online group for Bangladeshi gay people, called Gay Bangladesh.[10] It drew a number of over 1000 members, however, after Rengyu's fatal death, its activity slowed down and the group itself became neglected.[10] In 2002, two other online groups were appeared on the Yahoo! portal, Teen Gay Bangladesh, moderated by Prakash and Abrar, and Boys Only Bangladesh, created by Quazi Haque. Both groups were deleted by Yahoo! authorities in December 2002, and after several re-appear attempts and name changes, the only surviving group remains Boys Only Bangladesh, now called Boys of Bangladesh (BoB). The group, whose current moderator is Tanvir Alim, is the largest network for Bangladeshi gay men, organizing numerous LGBT rights-related events in Dhaka since 2009. Boys of Bangladesh aims at building a gay community in the country and repealing Section 377.[11]

Another initiative towards promoting LGBT rights in the country is an online blog Mukto-mona (মুক্তমনা), described by its management as a "secular site for Bengali humanists and freethinkers".[12] In 2010, Dr. Avijit Roy, an independent researcher and a science writer associated with Mukto-mona, published a book titled Homosexuality – A Scientific and Socio-Psychological Investigation (Bengali: সমকামিতা : একটি বৈজ্ঞানিক এবং সমাজ-মনস্তাত্ত্বিক অনুসন্ধান).[13] The publication attempted to provide a scientific view and accessible account of homosexuality on several grounds. It was the first book in Bengali language to deal with LGBT people and their human rights.[14][15]

HIV and AIDS[edit]

In 1985, a National Governmental Committee was established to research and develop a policy for handling the HIV/AIDS pandemic. A year later, a drug smuggler became the first official person living with HIV, with hospitals beginning to receive patients. However, the government remained leery about a comprehensive public health campaign in light of economic realities and the taboos involved.[16] As a result much of the work has come from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Since 1995, CARE Bangladesh has been providing HIV/AIDS prevention education for prostitutes, drug addicts, migrant workers and men who have sex with other men.[17] Other NGOs, including the Bandhu Social Welfare Society and the Red Crescent, have since introduced or supported similar efforts.[18]

In 2006, the government required the teaching of "life skils", including basic HIV/AIDS education, starting in secondary schools.[19] The government's goal is to have a comprehensive educational campaign, with treatment for all infected citizens, by the year 2010.[20]

See also[edit]