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Dhaka Tribune

Education Minister addresses controversy over ‘Sharifa’s story’ in textbook

  • Plan to consult experts about story
  • Story previously sparked debate
Update : 23 Jan 2024, 07:08 PM

Education Minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel on Tuesday addressed the media regarding the ongoing controversy over a story featured in a textbook.

“We plan to consult with experts about the story of Sharifa discussed in the textbook. If there's any confusion or misrepresentation, changes will be made,” Nowfel told reporters at the Secretariat.

The story of Sharifa previously sparked debate, and currently, some are protesting over its content. The education minister emphasized the need for a thorough discussion with the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) to understand why the story is eliciting such reactions.

He expressed concern about certain groups’ tendency to exploit religious sentiments and instigate instability and anarchy in the country.

He said: “A few days ago, some recommendations were given to me from an organization. Some Qawmi madrasa teachers claimed that the word ‘transgender’ has been used in the textbook. However, upon examination, it was clarified that the term used was ‘third gender’.”

“In our society, third gender individuals, commonly known as ‘Hijra,’ are legally recognized citizens with rights," the minister clarified.

He further added: “If the presentation of the story leads to misunderstandings and controversies, we will discuss with experts whether we can modify its presentation while respecting the dignity of the third gender individuals. This is a specialized issue, and we don’t want to comment at a policy level.”

Responding to a question about the Brac University controversy, the education minister said: “We will discuss this matter with Brac University and understand the issue through the University Grants Commission, following which a detailed discussion will be held.”

According to experts, hijra is a gender-based community in South Asian region consisting of diverse people who follow different traditions, livelihood, lifestyle, law and language. Transgender is someone whose gender identity differs from that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Third gender is a concept in which individuals are categorized, either by themselves or by society, as neither a man or woman.

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