AL looks to further empower third gender

Ali Asif Shawon
Published : 04:00, Dec 15, 2019 | Updated : 10:27, Dec 15, 2019

The Awami League`s flag flutters in front of its headquarters at the Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka. FILE PHOTO/Syed Zakir HossainThe ruling party Awami League has in its two previous terms in the government made huge strides in ensuring the rights of the third gender. The 2009 government acknowledged the rights of transgender people in 2013, and the 2014 government helped expand work opportunities and voting rights.
And now, the party of the Father of the Nation looks to be more inclusive by incorporating the third gender in its constitution for the upcoming 21st National Council.
According to several members of the party Subcommittee for Constitution, the Awami League wants to ensure political rights of the third gender.
Advocate Afzal Hossain, member-secretary of the subcommittee, told Bangla Tribune that the party is moving with the times.
“We want our party constitution to be more appropriate for the time. We are not considering any radical changes, but some minor changes after the national councilors are confirmed.”
But other members of the subcommittee were more effusive.
Wishing anonymity, they said the matter has been greatly discussed, but the decision will have to come in the council session on December 21.
One top leader said that by changing the language in the party constitution, hijras (colloquial term for transgender people) will not face any systemic barrier to enter party politics.
“As a secular party, we want to accommodate people of all genders and races in our party.”
Transgender people have run for office in Bangladesh before to widespread acclaim, but never achieving success. In 2017, Nadira Begum contested for a council seat in the Rangpur City Corporation elections.
Earlier this year, eight transgender people filed their nominations for the reserved seats in parliament with the Awami League.
Despite the reforms and policies, transgender people continue to face stigma and bias in their day-to-day lives. A transgender person may not face any bureaucratic problem to run for a party or a government seat, but societal resistance is expected to persist.
Additional reforms in the party constitution may include anti-drugs, anti-terrorism, and anti-corruption clauses. Another change is expected in changing the “Right to Food” to “Right to Nutritious Food” as the party leaders believe nationwide food security has been achieved.