More than 1,000 transgender women staged Bangladesh’s first ever pride parade yesterday to mark one year since the government recognized them as a third gender.
The colorful hijras, as transgender women are known in the conservative Muslim country, brought the busy roads of Dhaka to a standstill with their singing and dancing.
They unfurled a huge Bangladeshi flag and carried banners, one of which read, ‘The days of stigma, discrimination and fear are over.’
‘I never dreamt that I would see this day in my life,’ Sonali, 25, told AFP.
‘We are stigmatized everywhere. We are discriminated against. We are laughed at just because we do not feel like a man or woman. But today is different. We feel like we’re normal human beings.’
The government says there are around 15,000 hijras in the country but LGBTI rights groups put the number closer to 500,000.
The march was the culmination of the nine-day Hijra Pride, organized by Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS), the Ministry of Social Welfare and UNAIDS – ‘the first of its kind in the country at central and divisional level.’
The aim of the march was ‘to appreciate and acknowledge the decision of the government of Bangladesh on recognizing hijra as third gender… create social awareness on the respect of gender diversity [and] to sensitize policy makers on the need for social justice and dignity [for the] hijra community for a better future,’ BSWS said in a statement.
‘With opportunities, [the] hijra community can add value to the society and its growth with dignity and honor”
Other events included a seminar on hijra rights. a talent show to identify the best dancers and singers and a hijra beauty contest will be held later this month.