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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 14 - Volume 42 Issue 46
First Trans Pride in Bangladesh
Section One
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First Trans Pride in Bangladesh

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

More than 1,000 hijras staged Bangladesh's first ever Pride Parade on November 10, marking the one-year anniversary of a government ruling recognizing them as a 'third gender.'

'Hijra' is more or less equivalent to what Americans mean by 'Transgender,' although hijra is applied only to people who present as female, and the term includes professional drag entertainers.

According to Gay Star News reports, the Pride Parade brought downtown Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, to a standstill. Hijras sang and danced through the streets, displaying a huge Bangladeshi flag and banners with hijra liberation slogans.

'The days of stigma, discrimination and fear are over,' one of them read.

'I never dreamt that I would see this day in my life,' Sonali, one of the marchers, told AFP news agency.

'We are stigmatized everywhere. We are discriminated against. We are laughed at just because we do not feel like a man or woman. But today is different. We feel like we're normal human beings.'

The march was the climax of a nine-day Hijra Pride celebration, organized by Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS), the Bangladeshi Ministry of Social Welfare, and UNAIDS. It was reportedly 'the first of its kind in the country at central and divisional level.'

The aim of the march was 'to appreciate and acknowledge the decision of the government of Bangladesh on recognizing hijra as a third gender... create social awareness on the respect of gender diversity [and] to sensitize policy makers on the need for social justice and dignity [for the] hijra community for a better future,' BSWS said in a statement.

'With opportunities, [the] hijra community can add value to the society and its growth with dignity and honor.'

Other Pride events included a seminar on hijra rights. A talent show to name the top singers and dancers, and a hijra beauty contest will be held later this month.

During the seminar, Bangladeshi lawmakers put forward several proposals for expanding hijra rights, including inheritance rights. While hijras can now identify as a distinct gender on their identity papers, they are not allowed to inherit family property.

'We are still not entitled to our inheritance like our siblings under the rule of law,' activist Bobi Hijra told the Dhaka Tribune newspaper. 'The sooner the government took action in this regard, the sooner it would get better for us.'

'The hijras are not only deprived of their family property, they can't even claim it as there is no law in the country for the purpose,' Bangladeshi parliament member Tarana Halim told The Independent newspaper.

'I recommend, if the law is enacted, it must let them choose if they want to inherit their part of the family property as a male heir or a female one.'

In Muslim law, male heirs inherit more than female heirs.

'While enacting law for the hijra community we should keep in mind that the law must not limit their human rights,' Halim added.

Nurun Nabi, vice chancellor of Begum Rokeya University, recommended setting up schools for hijras, who are often bullied by their classmates.

'There should be a counselor in every school who will be counseling the hijra students and also other students to make them accept the hijras as their normal schoolmates,' Nabi said.

Hijra leaders urged the government to ensure their safety and basic rights at a Hijra Pride press conference in October.

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