Shakhawat Hossain and Rainer Ebert

Bangladesh’s LGBT community and the UPR 2013

April 27, 2013

BoB_booth-One_Billion_Rising-Feb_13-Dhaka“Ever since I was in first grade, I was teased by my classmates for my girlish behaviour. Back then, I didn’t even know I was gay; and being called gay was quite offending. I used to get teased, bullied and even took a few hits for my ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.

As I grew up, I started to realize that I wasn’t attracted to girls, but to guys. This was somewhere around third grade. At around the same time, I had seniors come and ask me if I was gay. Naturally, I said ‘no,’ but they didn’t believe me. So, as a child I ended up being completely unsocial and without friends, just because I wasn’t ‘normal.’

I made my first friend (who was a girl, because guys were still pretty hostile towards me) in fifth grade. I told her everything: that was the first time I actually admitted out loud to being homosexual. Eventually, word got around, and a few days later everybody knew I was gay. I still didn’t admit to it when asked. I was scared.

I remember that my games teacher didn’t like me for my ‘abnormal’ behaviour. He told me that I walked and talked ‘like a girl’ and that I should ‘fix myself.’ When I refused to listen to him, he ended up hating me and not letting me play football or basketball, or do anything the other guys would do.

When I came out publicly, it really wasn’t a shock. My classmates somehow learned to accept me; however, the bullying never stopped. The seniors and the juniors started calling me names and some of the seniors even went physical on me. People used to steal my copies, stationery, and pencil-bags; all because I was gay. Of course, when I came out to my mom, she didn’t support it: she gave me a long lecture about how it’s unnatural and wrong.

I’m in ninth grade now. The bullying hasn’t stopped; people got tired but I still get the occasional snide remark from a senior. The games teacher still doesn’t let me play and manages to insult me every time I see him. I’ve learned to ignore that. I have a bunch of wonderful, accepting friends who don’t really care what my sexual orientation is.

I guess I just got lucky: if this were some other school, I would have had to face way worse than what I faced here. Some people still choose to tell me that homosexuality is an ‘abomination’ and that I’ll go to hell for being gay. I wouldn’t say that it doesn’t hurt, but I just choose to ignore it.

Homophobia ruined my childhood. As a child, I wasn’t strong enough to bear the insults and the punches all the other kids threw at me. I used to come home and cry every day, and the worst part was that I couldn’t tell anybody else. If only the society was a bit more tolerant, and parents taught their children that it is okay to be different, I could have had a nice childhood.”

This is the anonymous story of a ninth-grader, posted on one of the various online groups for gay men and lesbian women in Bangladesh. He is not alone. In Bangladesh, like everywhere else in the world, some men love men and some women love women, and their stories often sadly resemble the story of the anonymous ninth-grader. Homophobia is endemic, but things are slowly changing, and Bangladesh’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens need our support in their struggle against bullying and discrimination.

Since 2001, when the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriages, more than a dozen other nations have followed the Dutch example, most recently and just a few days ago France. In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a historic resolution in which the inter-governmental body expressed “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.” United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had urged the Council to respond to the “widespread bias at jobs, schools and hospitals, and appalling violent attacks, including sexual assault,” referring to the fact that gay men and lesbian women have been imprisoned, tortured and killed as “a monumental tragedy for those affected, … a stain on our collective conscience,” and a violation of international law.

In Bangladesh, people who are attracted to members of the same sex not only suffer the social stigma of “being different,” like the anonymous ninth-grader, but are also discriminated against as a matter of law. Bangladesh belongs to a minority of states that not only refuse to recognize same-sex unions, but also criminalize same-sex sexual relationships.

What many people do not know is that the LGBT rights movement in Bangladesh has gained considerable momentum in recent years. A number of small, yet tangible victories have been achieved. Just a few months ago, for example, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Dr. Mizanur Rahman announced that his team, in collaboration with the National Law Commission, is drafting an anti-discrimination law which would also prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Earlier, Dr. Muhammad Yunus and three other Nobel Peace Prize laureates released a statement in which they called for the legalization of same-sex sexual relationships.

While these developments give hope, the struggle for LGBT equality is still in its early stages and LGBT activists in Bangladesh try to use every opportunity to bring attention to their cause. One such opportunity is only days away: On April 29, Bangladesh will be subject to Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR is a UNHRC mechanism that will examine Bangladesh’s human rights performance. It will be the second time that Bangladesh is evaluated by other UN member states, following the first time in 2009.

The UPR aims at improving the human rights situation on the ground in each of the 193 UN member states. Each UN member state is subjected to this review every four and a half years. A notable characteristic of the UPR process is that it allows for civil society participation at almost every stage. Most importantly, stakeholders (including NGOs and other civil society actors) are invited to submit their own reports along with the one from the government. The UPR hence gives a voice to those neglected by their respective governments and has proved to be a powerful tool in upholding the human rights of marginalized and disenfranchised groups.

Bangladesh’s LGBT community, too, has discovered the UPR process as a way to raise awareness for the violations of their human rights on national and international platforms. During the first cycle in 2009, based on reports prepared by Bangladeshi rights groups, Chile and the Czech Republic made recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh that, if implemented, would improve the legal status of LGBT persons in Bangladesh. Both Chile and the Czech Republic recommended that Bangladesh consider abolishing Section 377 of the Bangladesh Penal Code, a remainder of British colonialism which criminalizes sexuality against “the order of nature”. The Czech Republic further recommended that Bangladesh provide “human rights training to law enforcement and judicial officers, with a specific focus on the protection of the rights of […] persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity and adopt further measures to ensure protection of these persons against violence and abuse.”

While the Government of Bangladesh accepted the recommendation with regard to the human rights training of law enforcers and judicial officers, it refused to abolish Section 377, arguing that “Bangladesh is a society with strong traditional and cultural values. Same-sex activity is not an acceptable norm to any community in the country. Indeed, sexual orientation is not an issue in Bangladesh. There has been no concern expressed by any quarter in the country on this.”

When Bangladesh comes under review for the second time in a few days, we expect that UN member states will again address the legal discrimination against LGBT people in Bangladesh, and ask the government to take decisive steps toward LGBT equality. But, given the country’s current political climate, the issue may be buried beneath a pile of other issues. That is why it is important that the media, civil society and the community at large speak up and draw attention to the plight of LGBT people in Bangladesh.

Boys of Bangladesh (BoB), Bangladesh’s largest platform for self-identified gay men, has put forward a number of recommendations from the LGBT community in the stakeholders’ report this year. One of the main recommendations is that the government conducts a survey of human rights violations victimizing LGBT people in the country. Such a survey is necessary to learn more about the discrimination, stigma, and violence LGBT people face in Bangladesh, and to develop effective strategies to address these issues.

Given that the government already runs an extensive HIV/AIDS programme which also includes men who have sex with men (MSM), their claim that “sexual orientation is not an issue in Bangladesh” is disingenuous. It is their way to brush aside the realities on the ground and to avoid acknowledging that the human rights of LGBT people in Bangladesh are continuously violated. It is time for the government to acknowledge the existence of that clandestine but significant part of the population, and to take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and dignity. LGBT people are our brothers and sisters, our children, our friends and our colleagues, and they deserve to be treated with the same respect as heterosexuals.

Of course, LGBT equality cannot be achieved through legal processes alone. After all, prejudice and misinformation, rather than legal norms, are to blame for most of the de facto anti-gay discrimination. A number of organizations, including the Bangladesh Liberal Forum and BoB, seek to remedy this deficit and started an educational campaign to inform the public about issues of sexual orientation. They published a brochure that contains valuable information about these issues, and made it available to the public at the following URL:

What you should know about homosexuality

Representatives of Bangladesh’s LGBT community, along with other Bangladeshi human rights activists, are in Geneva right now to participate in a UNHRC session that will address Bangladesh’s human rights record. They will try their best to draw the world’s attention to the situation of LGBT people in Bangladesh, and we all should support their noble cause. LGBT equality is not a matter of culture or religion, but a matter of basic human rights.

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Shakhawat Hossain is a human rights activist and a volunteer at Boys of Bangladesh, a non-registered, non-funded, informal network of self-identified gay men in Bangladesh.

Rainer Ebert is a graduate student of philosophy at Rice University, a founding member of the Bangladesh Liberal Forum, and an Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

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45 Responses to “ Bangladesh’s LGBT community and the UPR 2013 ”

  1. Seira on May 23, 2013 at 12:13 am

    I must admit that this article was somewhat unexpected. I am glad though, that this came out at this point in time; it’s well-written and informative. I’ve already realised that we’re somewhat on our way to reform, judging by the comments here. It took years for things to change in other parts of the world. So I’m hopeful.

    • Efarjeon on May 25, 2013 at 3:01 am

      I agree with your thoughts on the article, though I must disagree with the judgement you’ve arrived at through your observation of the comments here. I’m pretty sure most people actively seeking out information about the situation regarding the LGBT community while looking at it as an ‘okay’ thing are the ones actually commenting here. I’m sure if you ‘made’ most people comment on this matter, they would say they find it repulsive. People fear what they do not understand.

  2. Xulhaz Mannan on May 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    My right to love is as basic and inalienable as any other human rights. I DECIDE who I want to love, not my religion, society, or law. And as for sex and relationships, consenting adults can decide; it’s a private affair, not a public concern.

  3. M Meyers on May 1, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Hi, Shakhawat Hossain.

    Education alone does not seem to automatically work to change a society and is a very slow process. A secular government should attempt to reign in people who use religion to oppress minorities but Bangladesh has unfortunately failed it can’t even operate safe buildings or foster free speech. Where then do we start if a government chooses not to or is unable to respect me as a human being?

    In the case of ninth graders, it is education. As a 9th grader, keep to yourself, study, study and study with little time for anything else. Don’t expect an open fair system. Study with the goal of getting a scholarship in the west and moving out of Bangladesh. What other realistic alternative is there?

    I wish there was a way I could help with that.

    It is sort of like slavery in the southern USA in 1860’s. You weren’t going to change slavery in the south. The only option was to recognize that fact and move out of the south to something better. But unfortunately many slaves didn’t realize they could change their lives for the better by moving.

    Harriet Tubman famously said “If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.

  4. Golam Arshad on May 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Ask the Prime Minister her own view! She has a massive majority in the Parliament, may be she may open a dialog with Hefazat, and pass a Law protecting Human Right encoring the spirit of Digital Chetona for a violent free Bangladesh.

  5. Bina D'Costa on April 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Wonderful article! Thank you for your insights. I look forward to reading more on the LGBTIQ issues, activism and advocacy in Bangladesh. Also, Kudos to bdnews for publishing this write-up.

    • Rainer Ebert on April 30, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Bina! I’m glad you like our article, and I hope to write about this topic again.

  6. KMAK on April 30, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Ebert: Who are you to call my concern for Bangladesh “disingenuous”?

    I am an actual Bangladeshi.

    Ebert: Yes, I do believe that it is a basic right to live according to one’s sexual orientation, whether or not one is heterosexual.Homosexual relationships, just like relationships between men and women, are natural and healthy forms of human bonding.

    I already know what your opinion is on gay rights, so there’s no need for you to state the obvious. My question was, on what basis do they have that right? Just because you say so? Here’s the thing Ebert, there can be no talk of rights unless duties are also taken into consideration. For instance, a pedophile can make the same claims as homosexuals in an attempt to justify his orientation, namely by insisting that his attraction towards children is something he was born with and beyond his choice (recent studies corroborate this view). Why are we not willing to honor the right of a pedophile to have relations with children? I’ll tell you why. Its because the right of the pedophile clashes with our duty to protect children. As such, for you to justify the right of homosexuals to live out their perverted lives, you will have to first prove that such a right does not conflict with any of our moral duties, taking into consideration that the vast majority of Bangladeshis derive their morality from Islamic principles.

    Let me conclude by saying that every econometric/empirical study that I have come across shows that heterosexual marriages are more long lasting and also produce health benefits for the people involved, among other boons, compared to heterosexual cohabitation, homosexual cohabitation and homosexual marriages, even when controlling for socio-economic and legal variables. Bad marriages/relationships are not only a bane for the individuals involved but they also exert negative externalities on society. Considering the instability of not just homosexual relations, but all arrangements that deviate from traditional marriage, it is simply not in the best interests of society to legitimize any arrangement outside of traditional marriage.

    • Rainer Ebert on May 1, 2013 at 12:31 am

      There is a crucial difference between homosexual and pedophilic behavior. While the latter harms innocent children and hence must be banned, homosexual relationships between consenting adults don’t harm anybody. On the contrary, being able to live in accordance with one’s sexual orientation is beneficial to one’s well-being, all else being equal.

      In response to your bold, yet unsubstantiated claims in the last paragraph of your comment, let me quote from a U.S. District Court Decision, with which a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, after hearing numerous expert witnesses (cf. http://documents.nytimes.com/us-district-court-decision-perry-v-schwarzenegger):

      “[E]vidence shows same-sex marriage has and will have no adverse effects on society or the institution of marriage”, and that “children raised by gay or lesbian parents are just as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents and that the gender of a parent is immaterial to whether an adult is a good parent.”

      But, for the sake of the argument, let’s (falsely!) assume that “heterosexual marriages are more long lasting and also produce health benefits for the people involved, among other boons, compared to heterosexual cohabitation, homosexual cohabitation and homosexual marriages [...].” So what? Do you want to ban heterosexual cohabitation in Bangladesh because marriage usually lasts longer? Do you want to ban smoking and not exercising regularly because these habits are unhealthy? What next? Do you want the government, for the supposed benefit of society, to tell people which careers and hobbies they should choose, whom they should marry, and which books they should read?

      As for the Islamic views of “the vast majority of Bangladeshis,” majorities too have to respect individual freedoms. Even if 99% of the country’s population was in favor of criminalizing sexual relationships between adult Hindus, or Christians, or black metal fans, or blue-eyed people, or homosexuals, that would not make it right to restrict the freedoms of any of these minority groups.

      • KMAK on May 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        Ebert: There is a crucial difference between homosexual and pedophilic behavior. While the latter harms innocent children and hence must be banned, homosexual relationships between consenting adults don’t harm anybody. On the contrary, being able to live in accordance with one’s sexual orientation is beneficial to one’s well-being, all else being equal.

        You can’t have it both ways Ebert. If living in accordance with one’s sexual orientation (or even fetishes) is beneficial to one’s well being, then it is beneficial for a pedophile to be able to act on his sexual preferences for children. Your refusal to let pedophiles realize their identity establishes that not all sexual preferences are acceptable, and hence the argument that one has a basic right to live out his orientation is false. Who are you to say that only heterosexuals and homosexuals have a basic right to their sexual identity but not pedophiles or those attracted to animals and others with weird fetishes?

        Ebert: In response to your bold, yet unsubstantiated claims in the last paragraph of your comment, let me quote from a U.S. District Court Decision, with which a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, after hearing numerous expert witnesses

        The judge hasn’t done his research. “The introduction of registered partnership, both for same-sex and for diffe rent sex couples, does not seem to have negative effects on diff erent-sex marriage in the short term… However,the di fferent-sex marriage rate falls after the legalization of same-sex marriage.” (The effect of same sex marriage laws on different sex marriage: Evidence from the Netherlands by Mircea Tranfadir, Universite de Sherbrooke, November 2009)

        Ebert: Do you want to ban heterosexual cohabitation in Bangladesh because marriage usually lasts longer? Do you want to ban smoking and not exercising regularly because these habits are unhealthy? What next? Do you want the government, for the supposed benefit of society, to tell people which careers and hobbies they should choose, whom they should marry, and which books they should read?

        Slippery slope and red herrings.

        Ebert: As for the Islamic views of “the vast majority of Bangladeshis,” majorities too have to respect individual freedoms.

        Says who? We don’t have a duty to accommodate abnormal sexual behaviors, be that homosexuality, pedophilia or bestiality.

        • Shakhawat on May 2, 2013 at 4:24 am

          KMAK, you seem to know English since you have been using this language to promote your conservative views. So would you also mind reading a bit about sexual orientation before jumping into conclusions? You can begin with: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx

          Pedophilia is NOT a sexual orientation. It can be practiced by both heterosexuals or homosexuals or bisexuals. In fact heterosexuals are the most common perpetrators of child sexual abuse…the rampant rape, eve teasing, sexual harassment and sexual violence in the country says so much about the heterosexuals. So would you blame the orientation of the person i.e heterosexuality for all these then?

          Your notion that homosexuality is perversion is due to your ignorance, denial to access and acknowledge the facts, and probably your own insecurity with your masculinity.

          You have the rare privilege of understanding English, please use this to educate yourself.

          • KMAK on May 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm

            Shakawat: Pedophilia is NOT a sexual orientation.

            “Pedophilia once was thought to stem from psychological influences early in life. Now, many experts view it as a deep-rooted predisposition that does not change.”

            http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/14/local/la-me-pedophiles-20130115

            Shakhawat: Your notion that homosexuality is perversion is due to your ignorance, denial to access and acknowledge the facts, and probably your own insecurity with your masculinity.

            Since Rainer refuses to accept my challenge, maybe you can tell me what you think is best argument for non-criminalizing homosexuality in Bangladesh?

          • Rahman on May 8, 2013 at 3:57 am

            KMAK:

            1. Pedophiles MOLEST and TORTURE children.

            Gay couples are consenting adults who just love each other and want to live life free from bullying and harassment.

            You don’t see the difference?

            You have every right to hate gay people. You have no right to control their lives. And you can equate them with criminals all you want, but it is just dishonest and lazy: that is what I call “immoral.”

            Tomorrow you’ll tell us that short people should be banned from getting married, because if they can get married, pedophiles should be allowed to get married too. What nonsense.

            2. There have been several THOUSAND studies in 12 countries that show same sex marriages and families are as stable as heterosexual counterparts. You want to pick out one or two and use them to confirm your prejudice, go right ahead. You are entitled to your opinions, and entitled to be intellectually lazy. You aren’t entitled to make up your own facts.

            3. Millions of Bangladeshis aren’t Muslims.
            Are you saying they should live their lives by Muslim principles or be tortured, bullied, discriminated against? You derive your principles from Islamic codes, good for you. Others don’t. You don’t get to control their lives.

          • KMAK on May 8, 2013 at 10:08 pm

            This is in response to Mr.Rahman

            ” Pedophiles MOLEST and TORTURE children.Gay couples are consenting adults who just love each other and want to live life free from bullying and harassment.You don’t see the difference?”

            Clearly you didn’t read the LA times article I posted. Not all pedophiles are child molesters. Moreover, given that the AIDS statistics in the US alone show that majority suffering from this dreadful disease are gay men, I wouldn’t put much faith on the argument from consent.

            “By risk group, gay, bisexual, and other MSM of all races remain the population most severely affected by HIV.”
            http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/statistics/

            In any case, I was debating with Ebert on the claim that it is a basic right to live according to one’s sexual orientation which I have argued is false. You have anything to say about that?

            Rahman: There have been several THOUSAND studies in 12 countries that show same sex marriages and families are as stable as heterosexual counterparts. You want to pick out one or two and use them to confirm your prejudice, go right ahead. You are entitled to your opinions, and entitled to be intellectually lazy. You aren’t entitled to make up your own facts.

            Can you suggest 5 peer reviewed studies appearing in reputable journals that disprove the assertion that homosexual cohabitation/marriages are more long lasting than heterosexual marriages?

            Rahman: Millions of Bangladeshis aren’t Muslims. Are you saying they should live their lives by Muslim principles or be tortured, bullied, discriminated against? You derive your principles from Islamic codes, good for you. Others don’t. You don’t get to control their lives.

            Sure, there are many non-Muslims in Bangladesh, but the fact is, the vast majority ARE Muslims. According to the recent PEW survey of the Muslim world, more than 80% of Bangladeshis want Sharia to be the law of the land. The reality is, you and your homosexual advocating friends are the ones who don’t appreciate the Islamic identity of this nation, and as such, are the odd ones out. That doesn’t mean you should be persecuted for your unIslamic and unBangladeshi views. You are, however, welcome to leave this country for one where homosexuality is celebrated. How about the Netherlands? Its got prostitution, homosexuality, drugs and all other goodies you and your kind thrive on.

        • Rainer Ebert on May 2, 2013 at 8:58 pm

          I don’t think I’ll be able to change KMAK’s mind about homosexuality, but to all those who are reading along I’d like to recommend the following paper by moral philosopher John Corvino:

          http://wrightjj1.people.cofc.edu/teaching/PHIL3000/corvino%20homosexuality%20and%20the%20PIB%20arg.pdf (John Corvino, “Homosexuality and the PIB Argument,” Ethics 115 (2005), pp. 501-534.

          In this paper, Professor Corvino explains in detail why approval of homosexuality does not entail approval for bestiality.

          Also, here is a video of a talk by Professor Corvina that is worth a watch:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SutThIFi24w

  7. Rainer Ebert on April 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    In what appears to be a significant change in government attitude, Dr. Dipu Moni, Bangladesh’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, recognizes the need to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Bangladesh, and affirms their constitutional equal rights & freedoms at the 16th Session of the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on April 29, 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BQkJm34KzQ

  8. 1209-47933 on April 29, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Gay-shaming has become as common and accepted a practice in our country’s mainstream as slut shaming has been for ages. In both cases, the victim’s human rights are as much violated as their natural sense of dignity.
    Hope we can start looking at all traditionally taboo issues in our country through the prism of knowledge, information, humanity and fairness. Having an opinion on a certain thing is incredible, however, it better be an informed opinion. I am not willing to be denied my human rights by someone who thought I did not exist around him/her a second ago and knows next to nothing about my reality.

  9. Jk on April 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Bangladesh will never accept homosexuality in the society. Do get this point loud and clear.

    • Rainer Ebert on April 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      Well, you know what they say: Never say never! Sometimes things change quickly. Would you have expected ten years ago that homosexuality soon will be legal in India?

    • 1209-47933 on April 29, 2013 at 4:48 am

      I am just as much a Bangladeshi as you are. Don’t feel superior because you are naturally attracted to the opposite sex and I am naturally attracted to the same sex, and not the opposite. Free yourself from the shackles of ignorance, hetero-normative patriarchy and entitlement. =)

  10. ymc on April 28, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    What did the boy expect? that everyone will celebrate his being gay? this is indeed a shocking news and in this country and in many others this is seen as an abnormality and rightly so. if being gay, lesbians were normal, god would have created us like that. we wouldn’t have had so few of them.

    • Rainer Ebert on April 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      If you believe that god created all human beings, then he or she also created gay men and lesbian women. Nobody would voluntarily choose to be gay or lesbian in a society as homophobic as Bangladesh’s!

    • Shakhawat on April 29, 2013 at 4:14 am

      Its not about celebrating his being gay, its about safeguarding individuals who are ‘different’ from bullying, harassment, violence and discrimination. WHY is it SO hard to understand? If you believe in God, you should believe as much that we all are His creation and let Him be the judge of what is ‘normal’ or what is not.

  11. Khosru on April 28, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Here it goes again. Rainer Ebert propagating gay rights in Bangladesh. What is this guy’s problem?

    • Rainer Ebert on April 28, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      I’m promoting human rights, and I do have a problem – with intolerance and wrongful discrimination.

    • Shakhawat on April 29, 2013 at 4:15 am

      What is YOUR problem Mr Khosru?

  12. KMAK on April 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    It is interesting that the authors of this article are people who do not identify with the values of the vast majority of Bangladeshis. Ebert is a white, German guy, not a Bangladeshi, who grew up in a whole different environment with a whole different set of values, whose “valuable” commentaries largely ignore the realities faced by the average Bangladeshis and are merely a projection of his liberal, Western sentiments onto a population that is unwilling to equate change with Westernization. Sure, he has Bangladeshis on his side, like Mr.Shakhawat and other Brown Shabis, all eagerly working towards the suppression of the conservative values of my country in an attempt to appease their white, imperial masters and thereby making the cultural occupation of Bangladesh that much easier for our Western and Indian Overlords, as if the Indian media onslaught wasn’t enough.

    As for homosexuality, while I agree homosexuals should not be persecuted, recognition of a homosexual lifestyle will never take place on a societal level. Let’s face it, Bangladesh is a Muslim nation where religious sensitives are quite volatile.

    As for Mr.Shateel’s comment, is your vision of a progressive Bangladesh one where gay marriage is legal? Is that all it takes for a nation to be progressive, imitating the West morally and culturally? Marriage is not a social construct can be redefined so as to keep with the times; no, it is an essence that has always taken the form of a union between a man and a woman.

    • Rainer Ebert on April 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      You spend so much of your comment talking about me as a person that one could think that pointing to the color of my skin or my nationality was a valid criticism of my views. It is not. I suggest you refrain from ad hominem attacks and try to make a substantial contribution to the debate.

      • KMAK on April 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm

        I didn’t say your arguments are wrong because you’re not Bangladeshi. Whether or not homosexuality should be celebrated in Bangladesh is something the Bangladeshis will decide for themselves, instead of having you preach to us what is best for us. The colonialists had the same attitude as yours but look at where obeying them has got us?

        Let me ask this to the proponents of same sex relationships. What is your number one (best) argument in favor of non-criminalizing homosexuality in Bangladesh? Please don’t respond with a plethora of arguments, just give me your most compelling reason.

        • Rainer Ebert on April 28, 2013 at 9:26 pm

          I’m not “preaching”. My co-author and I are presenting arguments. I very much care for Bangladesh, and I want to see it prosper and become more just. I have many Bangladeshi friends who are gay or lesbian, and if their basic rights are continuously violated, I see it as my duty to speak up. I peacefully exercise my right to express my opinion, and I’ll always respect and defend your right to disagree. Comparing my activism with what colonialists did is grossly unfair, and I’m sure you know that.

          As for your question about the “best” argument in favor of repealing Section 377, I think the burden of proof is on those in favor of laws banning homosexuality. If you want to restrict the freedom of gay men and lesbian women in Bangladesh, it is you who must prove the necessity and propriety of this restriction.

          • KMAK on April 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm

            Ebert: I very much care for Bangladesh, and I want to see it prosper and become more just.

            Judging from your articles on bdnews24, you aspire to see a Bangladesh where Muslims welcome blasphemous speech, where Muslims abandon performing animal sacrifices on the sacrifical Eid and where Muslims tolerate the celebration of homosexuality, among other things. In other words, a Bangladesh free from Islamic influence. Your concern for this country is disingenuous. The things you write about are not even seen as real problems by the average Bangladeshi.

            Ebert: I have many Bangladeshi friends who are gay or lesbian, and if their basic rights are continuously violated, I see it as my duty to speak up.

            You seem to be convinced that a homosexual has a basic right to openly live out his homosexuality. Where does he/she get this basic right from? More importantly, who says I have a duty to tolerate homosexuals living out their orientation? You can’t speak of rights without at the same time saying something of duties.

            Ebert: As for your question about the “best” argument in favor of repealing Section 377, I think the burden of proof is on those in favor of laws banning homosexuality. If you want to restrict the freedom of gay men and lesbian women in Bangladesh, it is you who must prove the necessity and propriety of this restriction.

            For a philosophy graduate, you sure don’t know your concepts. The burden of proof lies on the one attempting to refute an accepted premise. Given The immorality of homosexuality has long been and continues to be an accepted premise in this country as reflected legally in the Penal Code as well as in the minds of the majority, it is you and your dalals who are the odd ones out and, therefore, must offer a very convincing reason as to why the Penal Code as well as the values of people should change in order to accommodate homosexuality in Bangladesh.

          • Rainer Ebert on April 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm

            KMAK: Who are you to call my concern for Bangladesh “disingenuous”? I don’t believe we ever met. I would really like to have an argument with you, but that requires that you stick to the issue.

            Yes, I do believe that it is a basic right to live according to one’s sexual orientation, whether or not one is heterosexual. Homosexual relationships, just like relationships between men and women, are natural and healthy forms of human bonding. A person’s sexual orientation is part of who that person is, and everybody deserves to be respected for who they are. What homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedrooms does not harm you, and should be none of your concern. You have a duty to respect people who are homosexual just like you have a duty to respect people who are heterosexual.

        • Ed on May 31, 2013 at 3:21 am

          KMAK, why don’t you face it? The extreme homophobia which you express comes from the Old Testament madman, Leviticus, whose views (fundamentally anti-female, anti-scientific and anti-minority anything) were propagated by countless Jewish rabbis throughout the millennia, the classic closet gay, “St.” Paul, and, apparently, Mohammed (although I confess to knowing very little about the latter, except to observe the anti-human effects created by fanatics like yourself and your hero, John Finnis, who are basically incapable of developing an original thought, much less understanding the concept of individualism). Finnis may have attached to himself the label philosopher, but he is really just parrotting the position of the Catholic Church–something I doubt you have much attraction to.

          Do you agree with all the other behaviors which Leviticus declares as capital crimes? Or are you an infidel who wears clothing of mixed cloth? What are your views on mixed marriages, slavery, education for girls, dancing, arranged marriages, polygamy, racism (oh, we already know that, along with your views on free speech), David and Jonathan, minority rights,,,? Are you aware that it was your fellow closeted British friends who institutionalized homophobia into civil law in all British Colonies. It’s safe to say that your “brown” ancestors (before the arrival of human-hating monotheistic religion and the British on the shores of Bangladesh) held views on sexual and other behavior, which were quite at variance with their invaders. Their minds were probably changed by some of the methods you and your fellow think-alikes advocate in your posts here. The screed of Leviticus was intended to set the Israelites apart from their inferiors–the native peoples of the world. Why do you have so little compassion for their plight and mistreatment?

          • KMAK on May 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm

            Since Leviticus has nothing to do with my arguments, I am afraid you are attacking a straw man.

    • Shakhawat on April 29, 2013 at 4:16 am

      KMAK, your comment is hidden due to low rating. Should I say anything more?

      • KMAK on April 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm

        I don’t expect my conservative views to sit well with the readers of this ultra liberal, secular “news” site. Here’s a thought for you. In public, whose views do you think will get more thumbs up from the people of this country, those campaigning for the recognition of same sex relationships, or those campaigning against it?

        • Rainer Ebert on April 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm

          How does it matter how many thumbs up who gets? Even if 99% of the country were in favor of criminalizing sexual relationships between adult Hindus, or Christians, or Communists, or blue-eyed people, or homosexuals, that wouldn’t make it right.

          • KMAK on April 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm

            Ebert, I hope you haven’t missed my earlier response.

        • Shakhawat on April 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm

          So there you said it…’my conservative views’…I am sorry Bangladesh is not what you see through your conservative lens. Please open up your mind, talk to people and try to understand people’s aspiration.

  13. LadyBoy on April 28, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I am a huge proponent of queer rights and I appreciate that this article has been posted and there are advancements being made in the LGBT circles. However, I don’t understand where the L, B and T elements are fitting into the discussion that is being presented. The main thing that needs to be done is to change the name ‘BOYS OF BANGLADESH’ to something more inclusive of the different categories of sexual and gender orientation that are present in the country. Otherwise, this will solely be a gay male issue. If you want it to be that way, fine by me. However, I will not support these forms of inaccessibility and discrimination and will stop supporting LGBT rights in Bangladesh.

    • Shakhawat on April 29, 2013 at 4:18 am

      Comment taken into consideration…thanks!

    • 1209-47933 on April 29, 2013 at 4:43 am

      Must mention this has been quite relevant in recent discussions arranged by Boys of Bangladesh. There are forces at work to bring about possible future changes within our body of work in order to explore and fight for the rights of the L, B and T with as much fervor as G and Q. Visibility is the key! Lets fight patriarchy together! =)

      • LadyBoy on April 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm

        great! I approve

  14. Shateel on April 28, 2013 at 12:30 am

    A very timely publication and it needs to reach out to the common people as well as the the think tanks and policy makers of the country.

    Back in 2007, I was part of a research on Family Health International funded project by Bangladesh Government that used to run counselling centres for the MSM group ( Men who have Sex with Men). These men are normal people like us and they nurture the same socio-cultural and religious values as any other Bangladeshi. But still they are different as they lead their lives in fear, shame, denial and anonymity. Their lives are cursed for no fault of their own as sexual and emotional attraction to the same gender is not a choice, but an insticnt as basic as hunger, happiness and love. But as members of this MSM group are part of the hetero-dominated society where homosexually is a sin/taboo/crime, they are either in denial or are in constant fear and shame of their sexuality. It was painful to see all these precious lives going to waste just becuase we are not giving them the healthy environment to thrive as responsible citizens,irrespective of the sexual orientations. With section 377 still there and lack of public awareness and religious and cultural taboo attached with homosexuality, the irony that the governmnet is projecting by denying LGB existance is understandable; but is it acceptable?

    I like to believe the we are a progressive nation and it is us who need to decide if we should move for the positive changes or let us drown in the darkness of ignorance. I wholeheartedly appreaciate the valiant efforts of BOB and other human rights organizations for moving forward with this issue. I sincerely pray that the enlighted and educated society of the country will open up to this idea and move forward in eradicating social and religious stigma pertaining to different sexual orientations.

    After France, New Zealand was the 13th nation to legalize Gay Marriage. Gay Marriage is also legal in countries like the UK, Germany, Netherlands. In USA, it’s just a matter of time for Gay Marriage to be legalized. I agree these nations are far ahead of us in terms of education, democracy, and human rights awareness. But even in India, being homosexual is not a crime anymore, which is also a recent development. I would request every responsible citizen to chuck away their personal stigma related to the matter and look into the facts concerning homosexuality and take a firm stand. Let us start duscussing the issue, be positive or negative. Unless we talk about it, it will never be resolved.

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