Transgender rights promoted in Bangladesh

Hijras are transgender people in Southern Asia. Hijras have the same human rights as anyone else; nevertheless, because of the way they look, they often face discrimination. Hijras want a change in people’s attitudes and behaviour. They also want the government to promote and protect the rights of hijras. Hijras also need opportunities for vocational studies, involvement and earning their own living.

The Bangladeshi organisation LOSAUK promotes the rights and position of hijras in Bangladesh together with local hijra groups. Their sense of community and their own movement have given the hijras strength. In 2013, the state of Bangladesh recognised hijras as the third gender. At the same time, it was promised that hijras would have access to services and also receive other support.

KIOS funding helped to disseminate information about hijras to the general public. LOSAUK filmed a documentary on the life of hijras, Onnation (Searching), which was shown over ten viewings to a total of 450 spectators. The documentary was shown twice on TV, and there reached approximately 2 million viewers.

The organisation also implemented a mass SMS campaign, where 100,000 mobile phone users received a message in Bengali to their mobile phones. In this way, a large number of people were effectively informed about the rights of hijras.

Supported by KIOS, the organisation surveyed the number of hijras in the region of Barisal. The report was distributed to authorities, and press events also helped by offering information to about 90 reporters.

LOSAUK has also sought to influence the authorities by other means. During the most recent funding, 4 seminars were organised. The topics included, for example, legal aid to hijras and the livelihood of hijras. There were 180 participants, who were members of the authorities, reporters, social workers and hijra leaders. Furthermore the documentary about the life of hijras was shown at 10 influencer meetings, and the problems encountered by hijras and the rights of hijras were discussed. In all, about 300 local authorities and representatives of NGOs and hijra groups participated in the meetings.

Through the meetings, LOSAUK succeeded in increasing cooperation and networking between different organisations and hijra groups. The authorities’ and organisations’ understanding of the human rights situation of hijras was deepened.

Hijras themselves benefitted directly from the work of LOSAUK. With the support of KIOS, 10 counselling meetings were organised, where over 200 hijras received legal counselling and information about their rights and how to act in different problematic situations. Furthermore, in two workshops, human rights activists and hijra groups learned how they can influence the authorities and promote the rights of hijras more strategically.

Hijras have been empowered by their movement. But they still have a long way to go to achieve their goal – the realisation of equal rights.