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Transgender community celebrates recognition date

  • Published at 05:03 pm November 11th, 2018
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Members of Bangladesh’s transgender community gather to participate at a campaign titled, 'Open Air (Khola Haowa),' in different areas of Dhaka University on November 11, 2018 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The government granted the recognition on November 11, 2013

Bangladesh’s transgender community, called “hijra,” has been neglected for decades. An estimated 10,000 to half a million – of Bangladesh’s population of about 16 million – belong to the hijra community.

ReThink Bangladesh, a social welfare and research organization, arranged a campaign titled, “Open Air (Khola Haowa),” on Sunday—to mark the day the hijra community was recognized.

The event started at 10am in six areas, one at Buet premises, and five of the rest were at Dhaka University – including the TSC,  in front of Shamsunnahar Hall, Chobir Hat in front of the Institute of Fine Arts, and on the premises of the Social Welfare and Research Institute. The organization hosted activities that included hijras drawing henna designs onto hands, and hijras taking selfies with visitors. 

Shahjalal Hredoy, a male student of Kabi Nazrul College, also a ReThink volunteer, told the Dhaka Tribune: “We want these community members to join with the mainstream of our society. That is why we came here as unpaid helpers. Many people have come here to wear henna drawn by the hijras. They wish for all members of the community to succeed in life.”

Khandakar Parvezur Rahman Kajal, a member of the transgender community, also an organizer of ReThink Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I find comfort in dancing. I am trying to make myself compatible with the mainstream. ReThink trains members of the community, on a merit-basis, in areas of their interest.”

“Some from our community have become beauticians and some have become news presenters— after preparing themselves for the competitive world. ReThink always tries to help them,” he added.

The Dhaka University and Eden Mahila College event was held between10am and 1pm. Another event began at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) at 12pm and ended at 2.30pm.

The doors of possibility have opened for this community to join the mainstream; since the government took the initiative to rehabilitate and recognize hijras as a third gender. This recognition was granted November 11, 2013. A year later, the Social Welfare ministry recognized the community members as hijra gender. 

On March 30, 2015, Labannya Hijra witnessed the murder of secular blogger Washikur Rahman, by Islamist radicals, on a Dhaka street. The transgender individual grabbed the fleeing assailants and her courageous intervention led to the arrest of two men—who later confessed to the killing.

After Labannya’s heroic act, the government announced plans to recruit hijras as traffic police— a move widely welcomed. Also the central bank instructed financial institutions to spend a portion of their corporate social responsibility funds on the transgender community.

Definitions

Male to female (MTF) transsexual—a person born with a male body, but identifies as a woman (totally or partially)

Female to male (FTM) transsexual—a person born with a female body, but identifies as a man (totally or partially)

Intersex—a person born with a body that is not clearly male or female

Hermaphrodite—a person with both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics Eunuch—a man who has been castrated, especially (in the past) one employed to guard the women's living areas at royal courts.

Cross-dresser—a man who dresses in women's clothes, but does not want to permanently change his sex; or a woman  who dresses in men's clothes)

Transvestite— a less respectful term for a cross-dresser