The theme of gender diversity refers to the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) population in Bangladesh. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender(LGBT) community is gravely stigmatized and faces severe discrimination in Bangladesh. LGBT community cannot express their sexual and gender plurality due to the persistent stigmatisation stemming from religion and cultural norms, a societal and institutional denial about the existence and validity of such diversity and the criminalisation of same-sex relations. Gender identities beyond the male or female dichotomy are not accepted by the Bangladeshi culture. Those who cannot identify themselves within this dichotomy are pressurized to conform to the general gender roles. People who consider their identity to be somewhere on a continuum of masculine to feminine instead of the prescribed male/female gender distinction are constrained by cultural and religious values.
This photo exhibition has demonstrated that transgender women (Hijra’s) and the sexual minority (effeminate males called Kothi’s) in Bangladesh are willing to engage in dialogue through sharing their experiences, which gave the photographers an opportunity to capture the very precious moments and document stories of LGBT community. The French photographer Sebastien Chatelier is a freelance photojournalist with a special interest in humanitarian issues. The second photographer, Mohammad Rofiqul Islam, is a prominent LGBT activist in Bangladesh. He has been involved with the LGBT community for the past 17 years and aims at reducing the stigma and discrimination related to sexual diversity, human rights and HIV/AIDS. Their previous exhibition was entitled ‘’Diversity Voices’’ and was displayed in Bangladesh in 2014.
Global Human Rights Defence is honoured to have been a sponsor of this successful photo exhibition. The uniqueness of the event was visible in the personal stories and personal items displayed alongside the photographs. The welcome ceremony was well-attended by people who are doing influential work in the field of sexual and reproductive health rights and human rights, which brings hope to the LGBT community in Bangladesh. Through this photo exhibition, Bandhu Social Welfare Society has raised the issue of gender diversity in an artistic setting, ensuring the wider dissemination of acceptance and tolerance to the Bangladeshi public.