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Dhaka Tribune

Controversy erupts as Florida governor misfires on Bangladesh LGBT rights funding

  • DeSantis criticizes Biden for Trump-era Bangladesh LGBT program
  • Program advocating for inclusion of Hijra community in 2021 census
  • The program managed by USAID
Update : 14 Jan 2024, 06:51 PM

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under scrutiny for criticizing US President Joe Biden’s economic policies, specifically targeting federal spending on promoting transgender rights in Bangladesh.

However, a CNN fact-checking reveals that the program in question, aimed at promoting the civil rights of LGBT Bangladeshis, was initiated during former US president Donald Trump’s administration.

DeSantis, known for his conservative stance on transgender issues, raised concerns about taxpayer dollars being allocated to support LGBT rights in Bangladesh during two Iowa events this week.

At a Fox News town hall with Iowa voters, DeSantis advocated for a line-item veto, expressing his disapproval of federal spending on what he termed as “promoting transgenderism in Bangladesh.”

He questioned the appropriateness of using taxpayer dollars for such initiatives and suggested that the president should have the authority to veto individual spending items.

Launched in June 2018 and concluded in June 2021, the program cost approximately $849,535 over the three years.

It focused on advocating for the inclusion of the “Hijra” community of Bangladesh in the 2021 census.

According to records from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the agency responsible for the program, the total expenditure amounted to less than 0.003% of USAID’s budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which was nearly $30 billion.

DeSantis’ criticism comes as he actively incorporates transgender issues into his political discourse, particularly to appeal to evangelical and conservative voters.

In Florida, he has signed laws restricting gender-affirming treatment for minors, regulating transgender individuals’ bathroom usage, and imposing restrictions on drag shows.

In response to inquiries, the DeSantis campaign referred to USAID fact sheets and press releases highlighting the collaboration with Bangladeshi civil society groups to ensure the inclusion of the Hijra community in the census.

While this specific program concluded during the Trump era, there is another ongoing USAID program supporting LGBT rights in Bangladesh, launched in 2023.

The controversy surrounding DeSantis’ critique underscores the broader debate over the prioritization of federal funds and the politicization of LGBTQ+ rights issues in both domestic and international contexts.

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