Bangladesh, a South Asian Muslim majority country, is one of the 76 countries, which still has a sodomy law criminalizing same-sex activities. There is a culture of collective denial about the existence of sexual and gender minorities in the country. Non-normative gender and sexual behavior is considered immoral, sinful, disgusting and absolutely unacceptable. As a result, same-sex relationships flourish and thrive in secrecy forcing people to be invisible and non-existent.
Despite the unfavorable climate, some organizations have been working to be more visible. However, due to such visibility, the activists have been climbing to the top of the list of targets of extremists. They have been victims of anonymous threats, intimidations, verbal abuse, online attacks and sometimes physical assault. The ignorance of the mass, the denial from the government and the rejection from mainstream civil society, the queer community has thus been left fully exposed to vulnerabilities, which reached the extreme following the dreadful murder of prominent gay activists on April 25, 2016.
After this tragic murder, the community had a hard time overcoming this horrible event. It was forced to go underground, and all activities came to an abrupt halt. The momentum that had been slowly gained over the years was lost overnight. Recently in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 2018, Bangladesh government rejected the recommendation to decriminalize same-sex activities for the third time.
Living a life in secret, not being able to come out, to be yourself, to express who you are or love who you want is stifling and can lead to depression and suicide. Being resilient and scared, we want to pick up the courage to find a voice. We want to help others by collecting stories from the community members. We want to document, preserve and celebrate growing up as a queer identity in Bangladesh. The idea aims to bring knowledge of queer narratives in Bangladesh into widespread public consciousness through creative expression including narrative, photography, visual arts, and other mediums. It will speak directly to a tale of a country obsessed with keeping the queer community invisible, in the closet or in its jails.
The collection of the stories will show others that they are not alone, that they are not the only ones struggling with these feelings, with this secret they are forced to keep. Even if it helps one youngster from living through the day a little bit easier, to prevent one suicide, it is worth it. So please help us to help others!
We are Oboyob, a collective of some diverse individuals located in Bangladesh who are involved in producing visual art as advocacy campaign materials. We have been involved with networking and community mobilization projects for 10+ years. We take a deep interest in sexual politics, intersectionality of causes and social justice. We work to create a safe space for queer storytellers to express themselves. Our activism through art and writings have sparked debates in different spaces in the past. We strongly believe that storytelling can play a strong role in improving queer lives in Bangladesh.
To develop "Love That Connects People" graphic anthology, we want to organize a workshop where a curator can help us put our stories into a form that express these stories the best way. This can be through photography, writing, drawing etc. The activities will take place in a safe space where they can discuss their childhood, the hurt, the pain, the joy, the love. The curator will help them to find the voice and at the end, we hope to have a collection of stories that we can show others to let them know, they are not alone. The work will be printed/published as a graphic anthology and displayed on a website.
The total fund required for the project is 6,000 USD. The money will go to pay the curator, proofreaders, rent of a safe space, accommodation, transportation, printing/publishing of the finished work, website, communication, and security.