Roundtable_01On 13th December 2020, a roundtable discussion was arranged jointly by Bandhu Social Welfare Society and English daily Dhaka Tribune in association with International Republican Institute (IRI) at Gulshan’s Six Seasons Hotel in the capital. With the support of IRI, Bandhu developed a Policy Statement for ensuring human rights of the Gender Diverse Population in Bangladesh. The Policy Statement was written by Taslima Yasmin, Assistant Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka. As a part of writing process, Bandhu conducted several community dialogue sessions in the different divisional cities in Bangladesh. After analyzing the data, collated from the events, Taslima Yasmin developed the policy statement with the support of Bandhu and shared through Roundtable consultation.

Aroma Dutta, The National Parliament Member, Akhtarruzzaman Khan Kabir Director-General of Youth Development, Shireen Huq, Member of Naripokkho, Monowar Kamal, Executive Director of Ain-O-Shalish Kendra Golam, Md. Aaktaruzzaman Deputy Director of National Legal Aid Service Organization, , Shabnam Azim, , Associate Professor Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka, Mohuya Liya Falia, Program Coordinator of Women’s Voice and Leadership, Bangladesh (WVLB),  Geoffrey Macdonald, Residential Program Director for Bangladesh, International Republican Institute (IRI) attended the event. From Bandhu, Anisul Islam Hero, Chairperson, Shale Ahmed, Executive Director, Md. Fosiul Ahsan, Director, Health and Strategic Partnership, Umme Farhana Zarif Kanta Policy Advocacy and Human Rights Director of Bandhu were there along with the SOGI community representatives, religious faith leader, journalists and lawyers.

Taslima Yasmin presented the key note presentation on “What About Us: The voices from the people of diverse gender identity in Bangladesh,” in the roundtable consultation. According to presentation, GDP still face obstacles including discrimination in education and employment, harassment in streets, barriers in practicing religion and rejection from family. Transgender men and women are unable to change their gender on any legal documents due to absence of a mechanism of legal gender recognition. Besides, there is also a lack of understanding about the various clusters of gender diverse persons.

The Policy Brief recommend the following issues for the future area of advocacy

  • Legal gender recognition of all the diverse gender identities has to be ensured. It should be made mandatory through proper legal mechanism, that all official documents and forms include a third option in addition to male and female.
  • Appropriate mechanism need to be put in place to allow a person to change gender identity in all official documents.
  • Family counseling and knowledge sharing is crucial to ensure that SOGI people are accepted within their families so that they can have a childhood free of abuse and harassment.
  • Teachers and educators at all levels need to be brought under comprehensive training programs in order to develop knowledge and sensitivity on the issues involving SOGI persons.
  • Psycho-social counseling should be made available in all educational institutions.
  • All concern stakeholders (i.e. government officials, policy makers, law enforcement officers, judicial officers, etc.) have to be brought under comprehensive training and sensitization programs to increase awareness on the issues around SOGI persons.
  • Trainings and awareness programs of the medical officers and staffs are essential with regard to the issues of health care needs of the SOGI persons.
  • With regard to hijra community, alternative procedures of enlistment need to be introduced so that a hijra person does not have to go through medical check up to obtain a certificate for receiving social welfare benefits.
  • The laws around sexual offences in the existing legal framework need to be evaluated to include sexual abuse against SOGI people.
  • It needs to be ensured that all public and private organizations adopt and enforce comprehensive and gender sensitive policies against harassment and bullying.
  • A separate law on sexual harassment at workplaces needs to be enacted in line with the Supreme Court’s mandate, which should include sexual harassment against diverse SOGI persons.
  • A comprehensive anti-discrimination law needs to be enacted upon consultation with all relevant stakeholders and upon reviewing the existing draft law that is pending for consideration in the law ministry.
  • Learning from other jurisdictions in the subcontinent as well as from the best practices around the world, the possibility of proposing a separate law specifically protecting the rights of the transgender persons need to be assessed.
  • Media has to play a stronger role in creating public sensitivity and awareness around the issues of rights violations of SOGI persons.
  • Rights based civil society organizations should create a common platform to strengthen the policy advocacy for ensuring rights of the SOGI population.

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