I Want to Live with My Head Held High: Abuses in Bangladesh’s Legal Recognition of Hijras

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This is relevant to humanitarian actors because it explores the pre-emergency marginalisation of third-gender people and highlights the ways in which legal reform without substantial cultural change can be dangerous.

This report details the harm that hijras experienced following the Government of Bangladesh’s official recognition of hijra as a third gender category in 2014. This recognition was much lauded by international press and institutions but, unfortunately, the Government did not develop or implement guidelines or policies around this recognition.

In practice, according to Human Rights Watch, this meant that hijras–people assigned male at birth but who identify as women and prefer to be recognised as hijra–experienced increased discrimination and harassment following this announcement. For instance, following a Government-issued memorandum, hijras applying for government jobs were forced to undergo dehumanising and purposefully humiliating medical examinations.

This article highlights the danger of policy change without guidelines and protection mechanisms.

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"At first welcoming this potentially empowering development, hijras seeking government jobs lined up for the initial interview. Things did not go well from the start. Candidates told Human Rights Watch that they felt humiliated by ill-informed Social Welfare Department officials during the initial interviews, which were conducted in December 2014. Many said that they were harassed and asked inappropriate questions about their gender identity and sexuality."

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This report details the harm that hijras experienced following the Government of Bangladesh’s official recognition of hijra as a third gender category in 2014. This recognition was much lauded by international press and institutions but, unfortunately, the Government did not develop or implement guidelines or policies around this recognition.

In practice, according to Human Rights Watch, this meant that hijras–people assigned male at birth but who identify as women and prefer to be recognised as hijra–experienced increased discrimination and harassment following this announcement. For instance, following a Government-issued memorandum, hijras applying for government jobs were forced to undergo dehumanising and purposefully humiliating medical examinations.

This article highlights the danger of policy change without guidelines and protection mechanisms.