Given a contradictory Constitutional combination of secularism with Islam as the state religion, Bangladesh’s religious, ethnic and sexual minorities remain highly vulnerable to violence, discrimination and intimidation. This is reinforced by weak legal procedures and institutions, corruption, impunity, poverty, illiteracy and traditional customs. In 2011 – 2012, indigenous peoples, Hindus, Buddhists and other minorities continued to have their rights violated and/or property seized by land grabbers, extremists and political leaders with authorities either directly involved or bribed into looking the other way. Minority women and girls were abducted, raped and/or killed while impunity ensued for the perpetrators. Often, victims who were willing to testify were threatened or bribed into silence, and thus denied justice, compensation and rehabilitation.
Traditional conservatism in Bangladesh is providing little room for sexual diversity, and consensual sexual acts between adults remains criminalised with penalties up to life imprisonment under Section 377. Fearing persecution, sexual minorities in Bangladesh remain largely invisible. Although the law is rarely enforced, it reinforces stigma and public contempt against them, making them vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including torture, rape, forced marriages, discrimination in employment, health, and family life, and restrictions in enjoying freedom of expression, personal liberty, freedom of movement and assembly.
Section 377 is repeatedly abused by law enforcement agencies to arbitrarily arrest, extort, torture and rape LGBT persons and sex workers from cruising areas (*Section 377 of THE PENAL CODE, 1860 (ACT NO XLV OF 1860, definition: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of the nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall be liable to fine.”)
Key issues: rights of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, indigenous peoples, women and children, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, peaceful assembly and association anti-discrimination, right to land and property, personal integrity, freedom from torture and inhumane treatment, and right to family life.