Hijras say want to live with dignity

Muktadir Rashid
Transgender people bring out a procession in the capital on Monday, demanding their recognition as the ‘third gender’. — New Age photo

Transgender people bring out a procession in the capital on Monday, demanding their recognition as the ‘third gender’. — New Age photo

Hijra community representatives from seven divisions on Monday urged the government to take steps to improve their conditions and lamented that no policy had been adopted for protecting their rights even a year after their recognition as third gender.
They placed a set of demands before the government, including setting up a specialised school, and said that the government should enact an inclusive law to protect the rights of the marginalised community so that they could live in the society with dignity.
They were speaking at a consultation session at Bishwa Sahitya Kendra auditorium marking one year of the recognition of Hijra community as the third gender.
On November 10, 2013,  Bangladesh officially recognised Hijra or transgenders as a separate gender or the third sex in order to secure their rights, enabling them to identify their gender as ‘hijra’ in all government documents, including passports.
Several dozens of Hijra representatives attended the concluding ceremony of the weeklong Hijra Pride 2014 at Shahbagh and Banglamotor in the capital.
Narrating the plight of the Hijra community, a 20-year-old Kamona Saha, who changed his name into Nazmul Islam Bijoy, told New Age that he was subjected to torture by his family when he was showing signs of gender transformation a few years back.
He said he left his Savar house and migrated to a neighbouring country and chose dancing as his profession.
‘I could not continue my study after completion SSC in 2009 as people around me used to harass me,’ said Kamona.
Like him, Boby Hijra from Dhaka, Sonali from Barisal, Sagarika from Rajshahi, Nadira from Rangpur, among others, described how they were facing discrimination in the society.
Addressing the function, Awami League lawmaker Tarana Halim said rights of Hijras were guaranteed by the constitution.
‘However, a comprehensive law must be enacted to ensure their rights,’ she added.
Population scientist AKM Nurun Nabi, also the vice-chancellor of Begum Rokeya University, suggested that specialised schools and curriculum should be introduced for the marginalised communities like Hijraas in order to incorporate them into the mainstream of the society.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police additional commissioner Mili Biswas assured the Hijra community that police would provide them with necessary legal assistance.
But, Bandhu Social Welfare Society chairperson Anisul Islam Hero, who has been working for welfare Hijra community for many years, said the society should charge its attitude toward them.
‘It is true, Hizras sometimes make a nuisance of themselves but the situation would improve if they are assimilated in the society. ’
The department of social services estimates that there are over 10,000 Hizras in Bangladesh.
Since 2012-2013 fiscal year,  the government allocated about Tk 9 crore under its development programme introducing stipend for underage Hijras while skill development training for Hijras aged 18 years and above and old-age allowance for 50 plus poor Hijras.
The department said that at least 7,782 Hijras received the government assistance.

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