More than half of gay people in Bangladesh surveyed recently said they live in fear because of their sexual orientation in the conservative South Asian Muslim-majority country that criminalizes same-sex relations.
The survey of 751 people showed more than 50 percent admitting to living in constant fear of their sexual orientation being found out. Many also said they felt their sexual orientation conflicted with their religious identity as they consider same-sex relations as a sin and immoral.
The survey was conducted by Boys of Bangladesh, a support group for the gay community in Bangladesh, and Roopban, the country’s first ever magazine for the local gay community.
While 25.8 percent of the respondents said they did face discrimination, a higher percentage said they either had no knowledge or no access to legal support.
“The aim of our survey is to understand what problems our community is facing, what their demands are and how they can be addressed,” survey spokesperson Shakhawat Imam Rajeeb told the Dhaka Tribune.
The survey was conducted across eight major cities across Bangladesh but 250 of those surveyed were from the national capital Dhaka. The average age of the respondents who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, was 25.
“The survey was the first of its kind in Bangladesh, and thus is testament to how much is yet to be done,” reported Dhaka Tribune.
“Sexuality in general needs to be talked about in our country,” Saad Khan, a researcher on gender and sexuality studies was quoted as saying in that report. “There is such a wide spectrum of sexuality – we have to be open to different interpretations of it,” he said. “That can only happen when you bring in different voices from society.”
Gays and lesbians suffer discrimination and other human rights abuses in Bangladesh where sex between people of the same gender is punishable by up to life in prison.
In Bangladesh where 90 percent of the 155 million people are Muslims, any discussion around sex and sexuality is taboo. Same-sex relations is considered “unnatural,” illegal and punishable under Section 377 of the country’s Penal Code left behind by the British colonial authorities. Section 377 “criminalizes anal sex between men and other homosexual acts.”
The law is regularly used to harass LGBT people, who along with their supporters live in fear of retribution by Islamic groups.
In Bangladesh, any discussion around sex and sexuality is taboo. Sporadic discussions of same-sex relations online have been mostly negative, with people calling it a sin, a psychological disorder, or just perverted behavior. However, there is a pocket of tolerance and acceptance depending on the social class.