Where does Bangladesh stand on homosexuality issue?
Ashif Islam Shaon

Bangladesh is one of 75 countries that currently have laws criminalising homosexuality.

In Bangladesh, the highest punishment for "unnatural intercourses" is life imprisonment, but lesser jail terms of up to 10 years in prison and fines might also be handed out under the existing law.

According to the Section 377 of the penal code, voluntary carnal intercourse against “the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” is punishable with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to ten years and fines.

This phrase is interpreted to mean all forms of sexual activity other than heterosexual penile-vaginal intercourse.

Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described, the Section 377 also explains.

Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said being gay or lesbian was punishable under that section in Bangladesh.

Even though a small number of gay rights organisations and activists in Bangladesh were raising their voice to establish rights for the LGBT community, none of them has so far engaged in a legal fight to recognise the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the country, said Jyotirmoy.

Of the 75 countries that criminalise homosexuality, most are located in Asia and Africa, while more than half are commonwealth countries.

On the other side of the coin, nineteen countries – most of them located in North America, South America and Western Europe – recognise same-sex marriage and grant most LGBT rights to its citizens.

In December 2008, Bangladesh was one of 59 countries that signed a statement opposing LGBT rights at the United Nations General Assembly.

However, in January 2014, the Bangladesh government granted hijras, who are neither male nor female, official recognition as a separate gender. The move was made to ensure all hijras get priority for education and other rights.

In South Asia, the only case of legal fight challenging the criminalisation of homosexuality took place in India.

In 2001, an NGO there fought a legal battle challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 of the India Penal Code, which has similarity with the section 377 of the penal code of Bangladesh, but it was finally turned down by the Indian Supreme Court. 

According to Amnesty International, human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender can include violation of the rights of the child; the infliction of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; arbitrary detention on grounds of identity or beliefs; the restriction of freedom of association; and the denial of the basic rights of due process.

Some examples of such abuses include execution by the state; denial of employment, housing or health services; loss of custody of children; denial of asylum; rape and otherwise torture in detention; threats for campaigning for LGBT human rights and regular subjection to verbal abuse, says Amnesty International. 

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