It was not a gay pride parade as reported by online media outlets, organizers of the rainbow contingent told Gay Star News today.
Several reports reported this week that Bangladesh’s LGBT community members had marched in Dhaka’s New Year festivities, ‘wearing the colors of the rainbow as an act of defiance and an appeal for the Muslim-majority country to change its law that considers same-sex relations as "unnatural" and a crime.’
The 100-strong human rainbow was held to ‘celebrate diversity and friendship,’ a spokesperson from Roopbaan, the country’s first LGBT magazine, told GSN.
On Monday (April 14), the contingent walked from Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Art building to Ruposhi Bangla Hotel following the main trail of the Mongol Shobha Jatra procession which marks the first day of the Bengali New Year.
‘Since there’s already a big rally for the New Year’s Day celebrations, we decided to add a rainbow to that,’ organizers told GSN.
‘While the invitations [on Facebook] were targeted towards LGBT and allies, it was clearly mentioned that it will not be a LGBT or a pride parade. As much as we’d like to do a pride parade, this is the maximum we can afford at present.’
Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to a life sentence under Section 377 of the former British colony’s Penal Code.
‘Since there was no apparent LGBT connections, the rainbow rally was applauded by the thousands who came to Dhaka University area to enjoy the festivities of Pohela Boishakh (Bengali New Year). Excited participants expressed their solidarity to respect and celebrate diversity in Bangladesh.’
Organisers said a police permit was not needed as New Year’s Day is an ‘open’ rally day, particularly in or near the Dhaka University area where people can hold rallies and concerts freely.
The government’s recent acknowledgement of hijras as a third gender also widens the scope of gender diversity, said the organizers.
Last year, the government announced that it would recognize hijras, a traditional term to refer to men who identify or present themselves as women, on official documents such as passports. An estimated 10,000 hijras live in the South Asian country.