Section 377, Same-sex Sexualities and the Struggle for Sexual Rights in Bangladesh

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Abstract

On 24 April 2016, Xulhas Mannan, one of the founders of Roopbaan, the first gay magazine published in Bangla in Bangladesh, and an activist friend, were brutally murdered at his residence in Dhaka. A local Islamist organisation with links to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the murder. The killing of these two activists brought homosexuality into mainstream public view in Bangladesh for the first time in history, as the media reported the death with explicit reference to same-sex sexual activism, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights and s 377, the anti-sodomy legal provision Bangladesh had inherited from British colonialism. In the aftermath of the murder, many of the front-ranking activists associated with the LGBT movement in Bangladesh either went underground or fled Bangladesh. On 19 May 2017, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite security force in Bangladesh, raided a community centre in Keraniganj outside Dhaka in what was billed in the local and international media as a ‘gay party’. Rumours began to circulate that the 27 men arrested would be charged under s 377 for ‘being gay’. Drawing on ethnographic research and activism on gender, sexual diversity, health and sexual rights in Bangladesh, this paper offers an analysis of the wider socio-cultural context in which rights-based approaches to nonmainstream sexualities and gender identities emerged in the public sphere in Bangladesh. I contend that the public discourse and activism for sexual rights, including the repeal of s 377, needs to be seen in the context of the ongoing tension between differential ideological standpoints on socio-sexual movement and the appropriate praxis and strategies for the obtainment of erotic and gender justice in postcolonial Bangladesh.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Journal of Asian Law
Volume20
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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