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First third-gender person seeks Bangladesh public office

The Dhaka Tribune reports:

Dithi is the first member of the hijra third-gender community to run for public office in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of the Dhaka Tribune)
Dithi is the first member of the hijra third-gender community to run for public office in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of the Dhaka Tribune)

By becoming a candidate in the upcoming municipality elections, 48-year-old Dithi has marked the beginning of a new era in Bangladesh.

Dithi, a member of the community of Hijras, a term widely used to mainly refer to  intersex persons, is running for the post of a reserved female ward councillor in Kolaroa Municipality of the southwestern district of Satkhira.

Thus she becomes the first known person of such gender identity in Bangladesh to contest a competitive democratic election.

There have been similar instances in India and Pakistan in recent years.

In January this year, Madhu Bai Kinnar, a transgender person and a member of the Dalit caste, was elected mayor of Raigarh in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

In 2013, Bindiya Rana, a transgender person, contested in a provincial assembly seat in Pakistan.

While talking to the Dhaka Tribune over phone yesterday, Dithi said by participating in the elections, she wants to remove the social discrimination against her gender, who are still far from being mainstreamed in the society in Bangladesh and are often victims of harassment.

“You have to keep in mind that no one will give you your rights, you will have to achieve them. I became a candidate in order to ensure our rights. If I win, I will try my best to ensure the rights of the transgender people. I will always be by the side of the poor and the deprived,” she said. …

What usually happens when a person is identified as a Hijra in Bangladesh is that person has to leave home because of the social taboo. They have to go and live with the Hijra community.

Asked if that has happened with her, Dithi said: “No.  I never left home. Instead, I built two houses in Kolaroa and my houses are open for all. I provide shelter for the homeless and destitute in my house.”

Dithi, who lives in the local Hijra Para, is known as the “Guru Ma,” the master and the mother, is involved with the politics of the ruling Awami League. …

Election Commission Secretary Sirazul Islam said this is a great news for the cause of a fully inclusive elections.

“People are becoming conscious about transgender people. They are being mainstreamed. People talk about inclusive and universal election and this sort of participation is a big achievement for the commission,” the secretary said.

Official statistics shows that at least 10,000 Hijras live in Bangladesh now, but rights groups claim the number can be up to 10 times higher.

Hijras in Bangladesh have the right to vote since 2009. In November 2013, the government recognised Hijras as a third gender.

For more information, see the full Dhaka Tribune article,  “The first third gender person to contest polls.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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