Bangladesh Defends Textbook Promoting Trans Rights Against Islamic Protests

Despite protests from Islamic groups, the Bangladesh government defended their choice to feature positive depictions of the trans community in their school textbook.

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Last week, the Bangladesh government defended their choice to feature positive depictions of the trans community in their school textbook. This was in spite of protests from Islamist groups.

Trans-positive narrative causes uproar

Dear Straight People,

In what has become a major win for Bangladesh’s trans community, a new school textbook actually represents them in a positive light.

A history and social science book that targets children aged 11-13 aims to promote trans inclusivity in the classroom. This came in the form of the story of Sharif, a child who transitions to take the female name Sharifa and lives with fellow trans people.

However, this was met with fierce resistance from certain groups. On January 21, 2023, hundreds of members of the Islamist party Islami Oikyojote demonstrated in capital Dhaka, demanding the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) revoke the narrative.

The authority tried to promote homosexuality in a chapter in the name of transgender inclusion in textbooks.”

Mufti Faizullah, general secretary of Islami Oikyajote told the Agence France-Presse.

Similarly, head of the Islami Chhatra Andolon (Islami Student Movement) Shariful Islam Riyad was concerned about children being exposed to transgender people at a young age.

“Being a transgender isn’t determined by birth. It’s a choice. Why should we teach our children about this in this early stage?”

Shariful Islam Riyad

Remaining committed to championing inclusivity

In a conservative Muslim-dominated country, the transgender community in Bangladesh has long battled endless discrimination and violence. They are often left with no choice but to resort to begging, sex work and crime in order to get by in life.

More can always be done to ensure they are treated fairly.

In response to the uproar, NCTB official Mohammad Mashiuzzaman made clear that the intentions of Sharifa’s story was to reflect the progress made in modern Bangladeshi society towards LGBT equality and foster a deeper understanding of queer realities. 

“We’ve included the topic of transgender people because they are a neglected part of our society. Often, they are ousted from their homes. This textbook writing about transgender people is to mainstream them.” 

NCTB official Mohammad Mashiuzzaman

Hopefully, this narrative leaves a positive impression on Bangladesh’s young students.

Written by Rochelle Lee


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