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A Study of Cultural and Legal Issues Affecting Sexual Minority Rights in Bangladesh, Conducted by Aditya Bondyopadhyay. and Shale Ahmed Conducted in collaboration with the following Sexual Minority Groups in Bangladesh: Boys of Bangladesh Shawaprava Sushtha Jiban Conceptualized as a continuation from two similar studies that have previously been conducted by Bandhu Involved pre set questionnaires, Focus Group Discussions, In Depth Interviews. This study was funded by the SIDA/RFSU, Sweden. Aimed at understanding of Sexual Minority issues in Bangladesh so that their human rights can be protected and promoted. Study Period: August-December 2010

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Same Sex Love in a Difficult Climate A Study of Cultural and Legal Issues Affecting Sexual Minority Rights in Bangladesh, Conducted by Aditya Bondyopadhyay and Shale Ahmed PREMANGSHU SHEKHAR SARKER Senior Officer - Legal Bandhu Social Welfare Society Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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About the Study: Conducted in collaboration with the following Sexual Minority Groups in Bangladesh: Boys of Bangladesh Shawaprava Sushtha Jiban Conceptualized as a continuation from two similar studies that have previously been conducted by Bandhu Involved pre set questionnaires, Focus Group Discussions, In Depth Interviews. This study was funded by the SIDA/RFSU, Sweden. Aimed at understanding of Sexual Minority issues in Bangladesh so that their human rights can be protected and promoted. Study Period: August-December 2010 Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Socio-Legal Situation: Homosexuality continues to be criminalised in Bangladesh. Being a conservative society steeped in traditional values, many sexual minorities do not publicly express theirs sexuality. This creates a situation where identification of who is a sexual minority becomes difficult. Visibility of the individual is usually co-dependent not on the sexuality of individual, but on the gender role that the individual plays out in public. Society is more gender-phobic than homophobic. Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Gender in the Sexual Minority geography: The binary genders of man and woman is the norm, often accepted and internalized by Sexual Minority Groups. Even Transgenderism is identified as “becoming woman” by a man/male than as “assuming a third gender” (except for Hijras). Gender performance is visible as opposed to sexuality which is mostly kept hidden. Therefore social reaction / violence is often against gender-performance or gender-variance, not sexuality. The violator often makes the presumption as to the sexual activity of the individual based on the gender performance of the individual in public. Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Identity Construction: Historically and culturally identity has been constructed based on gender performance. Therefore a feminised male is a kothi. Few Kothis enter the socio-cultural institution of hijras and then are called hijras. Relatively recently, with the advent of gay and lesbian organizing, sexuality as a basis of identity construction has gained currency. Historically there has been no name given to lesbians, and their identity construction and identity based politics is also a recent phenomenon. Sexuality based identity remains closely linked to class. Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Marriage Normative Society: In Bangladesh, marriage is the norm and everyone is expected to conform. Marriage is overwhelmingly arranged by families. Marriage is a social tool for: control of sexuality; satisfaction of sexual needs; conference of social identity; bearing and socializing the next generation; working as a production unit; confirmation of old-age support; building social networks and gaining economic advantage Most same sex attracted people get married. Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Rights: Harassment & Blackmail Harassment by police and local thugs remain the most pervasive violation. The most affected are TGs and Kothis, i.e. those who are gender non conformative and from a poorer class. TG/Kothis are also those that access public spaces for sex. Gays who usually do not access public spaces for sex (use internet, mobile etc instead) and have power, report negligible harassment. Harassment, Blackmail, Extortion remain the most pervasive violation of rights Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Bandhu Social Welfare Society Based on Gender Performance, Sexual Assault and Rape continue to be a major issue, with police and local thugs (called goondas) being primarily responsible. More than 50% of Kothis and Bi who access public spaces report being sexually assaulted or raped. By Contrast Gays who access sex by mediums like internet, mobiles etc, and who generally are not gender non-conforming, report negligible instance of sexual assault. Lesbians face same amount of sexual violence as any woman, and not specifically because they are lesbian

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The reasons for the violence: Clannish society where the individual expression is subverted to the collective will. Shame/Honour is a valued sentiment and loss of honour is rectified by violence against the cause of shame. Patriarchist society where the male child is valued. Kothis and Hijras violate all of the above tenets. They are visible, loud, and effeminate, bringing shame to the family, and acting against the norms of patriarchy. Often strangers act on behalf of the family with violence for the above reason s Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Situation of Lesbians: Completely closeted, and nearly all face compulsory marriage. Has the double whammy of being women in a conservative country and a sexual minority. Have been able to organise only in metropolitan Bangladesh, while rural lesbians remain un-accessed. The lesbian support group does not come out in public as such. A lot of self loathing and confusion persist and most lesbians cannot express their sexuality at all in their lifetime, which is very oppressive. High suicidal tendencies, depression, and other psychological issues. Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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Religion: Religion remains a potent social force and institution. Islam (the major religion) has stated prohibitions against homosexuality and this is a barrier to the state taking up the issue of decriminalization or making positive laws. Most Sexual Minority Population are religious and therefore they face an internal conflict between their faith and their sexual and emotional desires. This leads to high levels of stress and psychological disturbances. There are reports of religious leaders indulging in violence against kothis and hijras, including sexual assault. Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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THANK YOU Report Available at www.bandhu-bd.org Bandhu Social Welfare Society

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