Legal Challenge Against Section 377 of Bangladesh's Penal Code Is Paused For Now
Boichitro Dot Bangla

19 May 2018

It was our goal to bring a legal challenge to Section 377 of Bangladesh's penal code that criminalizes same-sex relations. We had enlisted the help of an international organisation that conducted a detailed study of the prospects and a road map. While the cultural, religious and political obstacles were well known for such an undertaking, there was an additional factor that has put brakes on any further movement for now.

The organisation expressed concern about the independence of Bangladesh's judiciary. We recently had an incident where the Chief Justice of Bangladesh, Mr. Sinha, left the country under dubious circumstances after the Supreme Court gave a landmark ruling against the current government. This means that the judiciary is affected by the government even at the highest level. Under these circumstances, it is doubtful that we could obtain a future ruling on 377 from the Supreme Court that would go against the stand of the government. Without good prospects for a victory from an independent judiciary, it would be unwise to proceed with the litigation at the moment.

While it saddens us to have to pause for now, there are two things we can look forward to. One is the outcome of Bangladesh's general elections at the beginning of next year (2019) which is currently unpredictable. It would help to know what flavour of a government we will have regarding its Islamist agenda. Secondly, it is likely that we will get a positive final verdict from India's Supreme Court regarding India's 377 at some point in the near future. If same-sex relations are decriminalized in the world's largest democracy, then that will have a positive impact in the wider South Asian region.

We will have to observe the situation on the ground at that time. In the meantime, we will be concentrating at the grassroots level to raise awareness. We have young LGBT people coming out almost every day from every village, every town and every city in Bangladesh through Facebook and all the groups that facilitate contact and conversations among themselves. We need to get the message to them early on that they have rights as gays, lesbians, transgender people etc. and that their sexual orientation is as natural as that of heterosexuals. It is set at birth and is proven by medical science. Happiness of their lives start with self acceptance, then that of their families, friends, society and the state. We wish to project positivity and hope to these youngsters right from the very beginning and build a consciousness and strength from the bottom up.

Thank you very much to those of you who have supported us all this time. Gay rights are human rights and Bangladesh is no exception to this no matter what the state, the religions and society say on the matter.

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