The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Bangladesh is a very small one. Addressing their issues and marking the “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2014” (DAHO), Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts in collaboration with Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS) organised a week-long solo photography exhibition “Innate Identities” by Gazi Nafis Ahmed from May 10.
The exhibition is Gazi’s way of bringing the issue of LGBT rights out in the open and increase the tolerance of same sex relationships among the general people. The photographs on display seek recognition, rights and respect for the discriminated group. They give a glimpse into the lives of these neglected individuals and show that their love is equally respectable as that of a conventional couple.
As a documentary photographer, Nafis feels responsible to document various social, political, economic and environmental challenges we come across. For him, the identity crisis of LGBT people is a burning issue, thus, he chose to show their side of the story.
The exhibition was inaugurated on May 10 by the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena. Other guests present at the programme include Gerben Sjoerd de Jong, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh and Leo Kenny, country coordinator of the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Bangladesh.
According to surveys, one to 10 out of 100 people are sexually or romantically attracted to members of the same sex. Even if the lower end of this range is taken into consideration, approximately 1.5 million people in Bangladesh are bisexual or homosexual. Yet, LGBT people are facing discrimination, verbal/physical abuse, and unique legal and social challenges. Same-sex sexual activity, whether in public or private, is illegal and punishable with fines and up to life imprisonment. Bangladesh does not recognise same-sex marriage, civil union or domestic partnership. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has not been prohibited by law in Bangladesh.