LGBT Activists Arrested at Bengali New Year March, Later Released

On April 15, 2016 Global Voices reported: Bangladesh police detained four LGBT activists on 14 April when they appeared at a march with the Mongol Shobhajatra, a colourful procession on the occasion of Pahela Baisakh, the Bengali new year celebrations.

Since 2014, some of the members of Bangladesh’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have started joining the New Year’s festivities in a pride parade, a bold step for the oft-vilified minority. A network called Boys of Bangladesh (BoB), where Bangladeshi gay men mainly communicate via social media, is the largest network fighting for LGBT rights in Bangladesh since 2009. They have organized numerous LGBT rights-related events in the Bangladesh capital including publishing of the first LGBT magazine in Bangladesh called Roopbaan, which was launched in 2014.Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim nation, criminalizes homos

exuality. The colonial era British anti-sodomy law punishes gay sex with fines and ten years to life in jail.

This year the police were extra vigilant as hard line religious groups have branded the Bengali new year celebrations as un-Islamic and Haram (forbidden). This applies in particular to the Mongol Shobhajatra procession, where traditional symbols and masks of animals and faces are carried.In an email statement, organisers told Global Voices that this year they had arranged a rally titled “Boishakh, Boichetra and Bandhutta” (Boishakh, Diversity and Friendship). However, they have received some intimidation from some groups who labeled the BoB and Roopbaan initiative as a “gay rally” and threatened to beat the rally participants. On the night of 13 April police recommended that they cancel the rally for the sake for for overall law and order situation of Pohela Boishakh, given that they were a target. They agreed and cancelled the rally, informing as many people as possible.

On 14 April most of the BoB community members joined the Mongol Shobajatra in the morning without any marks, logo or props and departed after the rally. But around 11am, they heard that police had held five persons for reportedly suspicious behaviour and alleged that they were trying to initiate a gay rally. They went to the Shahbag police station and found that the police kept four persons in a locker and released one. Later that evening the police asked their parents to come to the police station and pick the detainees up. They told their parents over the phone and and face-to-face that their sons were homosexuals and were trying to hold the rally.

Read more at: LGBT Activists Arrested at Bengali New Year March, Later Released · Global Voices

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