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A ‘Zoom In’: How Trans People Are Treated as Objects in Bangladesh


Shammi Syera Simin, Iffat Zarif


Because of their gender identity and the transphobic attitude of Bangladeshis, the trangender community in the country is extremely vulnerable to assault and rape. Members of the hijra (the local term) community face daily accounts of domination, acts of violence and abuse. Gross human rights violations have often been reported by civil society movements lobbying for the rights of transgender people.

Violations occur in forms of abduction, arbitrary arrests, detention, beatings and gang rape. These molesters think they can get away with anything since not only do the police shoo away transgender people, saying their gender orientation is to blame for their predicament, the police at times take advantage of their helplessness. Bangladeshi government hasn’t been considerate either — the outdated rape laws hasn’t been updated. The rape laws include neither men nor sexual minorities. As a result, the abusers cannot even be reported.

However, the trouble doesn’t end there. In Bangladesh, most schools do not accept trans individuals, and even if they do, the student gets bullied and abused. Hence, many transgender people do not finish their education.

This, and the bigoted views of employers, means that trans people have no ways to earn money aside from begging or going into sex work. In fact, a 2015 ICDDRB survey found that of the 570 transgender people interviewed, 67.2% were involved in sex trade. A direct consequence of that is the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the trans community—a problem that is worsened by the country’s poor sex education and financial limitations, which make it hard for trans sex workers to buy condoms or caps. Not to mention the fact that some, especially depraved customers, pay more if no protection is used.

The least this community could receive is proper health care, so that any STDs present could be identified and treated before it gets life-threatening. But apparently, even that is too much to ask in this country, as doctors and nurses shy away when they see transgender person, not caring that their prejudice could kill an innocent person.

And when these tormented souls seek for a moment of respite in the arms of their lovers, that too is clouded by transphobia. Because, their partners don’t treat them right: some are only in the relationship for the physical pleasure; while others are abusive; and many married men have long-term relationships with people from hijra community, and secretly declare their love to ‘third gender’, yet appear to despise them in public.

Even healthy friendships with people outside the community are hard to come by—mostly due to the cis people’s ill-placed self-righteousness and contempt that stop them from even saying a nice word to someone they deem ‘abnormal’.

Imagine what living a life like that feels like—always in rejection, danger and pain. Imagine what a toll it takes on their mind and body. Imagine the scars that are left.

Would it kill us to be a little kinder—to provide them with the basic human rights of education, health care and inheritance that they undoubtedly deserve?

It appears that we have become obsessed in this toxic society with the labeling of others, especially with an intense and revolting over-interest in the sexuality and gender orientation of others. What happened to the idea of loving our neighbors and friends unconditionally and paying more attention to developing our ownselves, rather than trying to remake others?

After all, to change the world, firstly we need to change ourselves in ways that enable us to love and respect others. So, let us drop the facade of ‘morality’ — morals aren’t morals if you bend them to suit yourself — and have no agenda on transgender people or their lives.

 

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