Changes in social outlook must

There have to be changes in social outlook and public attitude to protect the rights of sexual minorities in Bangladesh, said discussants yesterday.

The media should come forward to break the social stigma, and raise public awareness to end negative stereotypical attitude towards sexual minorities, including transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual people, they said at a roundtable.

Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS) and UNAIDS, Bangladesh jointly organised the roundtable consultation meeting with media representatives at The Daily Star Centre in the capital aiming to forge the way for the voice of sexual minorities to be heard through the media.

Sexual minorities are deprived of their rights as they have little access to information, treatment, legal protection and familial care, said Anisul Islam Hero, the BSWS chairperson.

He said they are harassed everywhere — at home and outside. Furthermore they are also harassed by law enforcers if they seek justice, he added.

Due to little access to proper information and treatment, sexual minorities are vulnerable to HIV.

In Bangladesh, 9,548 people are living with HIV. But, there are many who have HIV but are not aware as they are afraid to be stigmatised, and so do not test for the virus, said Leo Kenny, country director of UNAIDS.

Addressing the function as the chief guest, AM Badrudduja, additional secretary to the health ministry, said sexual minorities may face social and religious challenges in establishing their rights.

“But we will have to go forward gradually without hurting religious and social sentiment. Social views and norms are changeable. The existing views and norms may be changed after 15 years,” he said.

Anonnya Banik, president of Sadakalo that works for the rights of transgender people, demanded that transgender people be provided with jobs if they are eligible and have the skills.

Several officials of BSWS and other NGOs, among others, also spoke at the function.

by Roundtable told, Staff Correspondent
Source – The Daily Star