Riaz Osmani

September 20, 2021

Slowly but surely, Bangladesh seems to be marching towards better days for the LGBTQIA population – not necessarily gays and lesbians among them but the transgender, non-binary and intersex people, i.e. for whom gender identity becomes an issue at some point in their lives for it contradicting the physical gender assigned at birth. This is known in medical terms as gender dysphoria.

The government had previously recognised such people (incorrectly in my opinion) as belonging to a third gender. From now on, all paperwork relating to schooling will have the option to fill out one’s gender as male, female or third gender. It is conceivable that all official papers in the country will have this option in the future (some already do). The government has also taken the decision to incorporate the issue of third gender people in the school curriculum to better educate youngsters about the presence and value of such people among them. When the time comes to declare a new gender identity compared to the physical gender assigned at birth, it will, in the near future, be possible to have that changed in all official documents.

This may seem surprising for a Muslim majority country. But it has been known through generations that such people have existed for ever. How else do you explain the presence of the artificial social construct in South Asia called the Hijra community where many LGBTQIA people have taken refuge over time immemorial to find shelter after being shunned by family and mainstream society? The Islamic faith also seems less harsh on those classified (incorrectly) as belonging to the third gender (as opposed to those who are gay or lesbian), and Muslims generally accept that God made these people as they are for better or for worse. The generosity of this thought is not afforded to gays and lesbians, it must be added.

So one has to appreciate the little victories. I am told that the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is personally LGBT friendly and it is no doubt that it is her American educated adult children who have encouraged her to take a bold decision regarding the country’s transgender, non-binary and intersex people. Credit also goes to the local organisations that have worked with them over the years and have highlighted their plight. Some eminent transgender persons in Bangladesh who have tirelessly gone about setting personal examples to others must be highly applauded. The next step must be government and private efforts to support in all manner the issue of gender reassignment when required.

News source: BBC Bangla

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