16 Days: Trans activist takes ‘not inclusive’ feminist movement to task

As part of the ’16 days of activism’ and International Day of Eliminating Violence Against Women (VAW), the Dhaka office of ARTICLE 19, a British human rights organization, hosted an online event with experts and activists on the issue of gender-based violence and systemic VAW issues in Bangladesh. The event covered important themes such as freedom of expression regarding demanding equal rights for all genders beyond just men and women; reporting assaults and violence; and the right to know and access to information for women and third gender.

The themes explored the obligations of the individual, family, society, and the state, as the responsibilities lie in all of us to ensure gender equity in our daily lives up to the policymaking level.

The panel included: Nina Goswami, Senior Deputy Director of Program, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK); Ho Chi Minh Islam, Trans-feminist, rights activist, and nurse; Abdullah Al Noman, Activist and Advocate of the Supreme Court; Snigdha Rezwana, faculty at the Department of Anthropology at Jahangirnagr University; and Selina Ahmed, Program Head of Gender Justice and Diversity Program at BRAC.

The discussions provided an understanding of the gaps in legislation that fail to address gender justice and the challenges women, trans-gender, and non-binary people face in the country. Additionally, how identity and societal perception play into exacerbating the violence and hampering in reporting of gender-based crimes and discrimination. Particular emphasis was given to the State’s obligation, as a broader gender-friendly environment can only be realized through a top-down approach to ensure justice and equal rights by the government.

Ho Chi Minh Islam, a strong proponent for trans rights, criticized the contemporary feminist movement in the country saying, “so far, this movement is not inclusive. The rights of transgender women, discrimination, and violence against them have always been neglected by the leaders of the feminist movement.”

“The definition of femininity here still depends on physicality. This change of mindset and attitude is very urgent now,” she urged. She emphasized the need to address the root causes of gender-based violence, saying, ”vulnerable and marginalized people, regardless of gender, are the first and most frequent victims of violence. The seeds of this violence are hidden within the existing discriminatory power structures in the society.”

This was further reiterated by Snigdha Rezwana , who said that the country lacks gender-sensitivity perceptions, especially in the case of reporting violence, among law enforcement officers and media, as reports of rape and sexual assaults are spoken in the public arena in a manner that results in victim-blaming.

Access to justice was also mentioned by Nina Goswami, “Law enforcement officers are not sympathetic to the women who are victims of violence. For these reasons, women have very little access to justice. The victims are blamed by their own families and society. Trials take a long time to name a verdict due to gaps in the judicial system. These long-standing cases are not good as it violates the human rights of the victims, by delaying justice.”

Faruq Faisel, South Asia Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 called on the authorities to make sure gender equality is ensured in all aspects of our society and that better steps are taken to ensure security for all genders and the protection of women, transgender, and non-binary people.

Source: United News of Bangladesh