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Authorities in Bangladesh, the Asian country between India and Burma, have reportedly arrested 27 men suspected of being gay, a crime in the Muslim-majority nation. The men, who are said to be mostly students between ages 20 and 30, were arrested at a community center in Keraniganj (a central region). The men allegedly possessed illegal drugs and condoms and will be charged with drug possession rather than homosexuality because police arrested them before any sexual activity took place.
Police claim that the men meet at the community center once every two months for an overnight event. Accordingly, they also arrested the the community center’s owner.
Section 377 of the country’s criminal code states, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.” The law — like so many others like it in Asian, African and Caribbean countries — hails from the nation’s past as a British colony.
While few gay and bi men are ever subject to charges under section 377, the country remains very anti-LGBTQ. It does not have same-sex marriage, open military service, hate crime or non-discrimination protections or any laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt or LGBTQ people to donate blood.
The most active gay organization in Bangladesh is an online forum called Boys of Bangladesh which has existed since 2002. Its moderators organize LGBTQ events and work towards the repeal of Section 377.
Bangladesh also had an LGBTQ publication called Roopbaan which first published in 2014, but its editor, 35-year-old Xulhaz Mannan, and his friend were brutally murdered by machete-wielding individuals the evening of Sunday, April 24, 2016.
Before Mannan’s murder, he told the Dhaka Tribune, “There’ve been quite a few instances of [LGBTQ] people being trapped and blackmailed into paying high amount of extortion money.” He said that many men pay rather than risk further harassment at the hands of police.
(Featured image by saif6996 via iStock Photography)