Is Bangladesh on the cusp of electing its first transgender MP?

The MPs elected to the parliament during the polls will vote among themselves to elect the 50 reserved MPs on February 17



Members of Bangladesh’s transgender community gather to participate at a campaign titled, ‘Open Air (Khola Haowa),’ in different areas of Dhaka University on November 11, 2018 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

In the aftermath of the parliamentary elections, nominations for the reserved seats for women are being sought after, with some pleasantly surprising candidates.

Awami League Deputy Office Secretary Biplob Barua have confirmed that eight members of the transgender community have filed their nominations with the party.

Arifa Yasmin Moyuri, one of the aspirants, had led a transgender delegation in September 2018 to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to thank her for removing socio-economic barriers to the community.

Transgenders buying nomination forms at the Awami League president’s office in Dhanmondi on January 16, 2019 | Dhaka Tribune

Moyuri is the president of “Siri Samaj Kalyan Sangstha”, a transgender welfare organization based in Jamalpur.

Falguni, another aspirant, said: “We are citizens of Bangladesh but we have no representation in the parliament. There is no one from our community who can understand and raise our concerns. That is why we are running for the seats.”

Bangladesh’s transgender community, colloquially referred as “hijra,” had been neglected for decades. An estimated 10,000 to half a million – of Bangladesh’s population of about 160 million – belong to the hijra community.

The Awami League government has made great strides in improving the living and working conditions of the transgender community through numerous causes and actions. The third gender is acknowledged in all government official documentation and they are provided with equal opportunities. The competition to be elected to the parliament is but the latest step.

The MPs elected to the parliament during the polls will vote among themselves to elect the 50 reserved MPs on February 17.

Awami League will nominate to 43 seats, the Jatiya Party will seat four, BNP will seat one, and independent coalitions will seat two.

On March 30, 2015, Labannya Hijra witnessed the murder of secular blogger Washikur Rahman, by Islamist radicals, on a Dhaka street. Labannya accosted the attackers and her courageous intervention led to the arrest of two men—who later confessed to the killing.

After Labannya’s heroic actions, the government announced plans to recruit hijras as traffic police— a move welcomed widely. Furthermore, the central bank instructed financial institutions to spend a portion of their corporate social responsibility funds for the welfare of the transgender community.




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