Police surround a community centre over night, holding those arrested for drug possession. For the secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops’ Conference, they should not be prosecuted.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite police unit, arrested 27 young men, aged 20 to 30, on suspicion of being homosexual.
The operation took yesterday morning in Keraniganj, near Dhaka. A RAB unit reached the site overnight and surrounded a community centre where the young men had gathered.
"A total of 27 young people gathered in the Atizabar area of Keraniganj,” said RAB-10 Capitan Md Jahangir Hossen. “We got information and surrounded the community centre. Later, we caught them. We had heard that they were involved in same-sex activity.”
According to police, the men met each month. During the raid they found drugs. Since they were not engaged in any sexual activities at the time of their arrest, police did not charge them with homosexuality, which is a crime in Bangladesh.
The police took into custody the owner of the community centre, who said he rented the space for 10,000 takas (US$ 125).
Most of those arrested are college students who met through social media and mobile phones. Since they were not caught in homosexual acts, they were charged with drug possession.
Being gay in Bangladesh can be deadly. Last year, Islamic extremists killed Xulhaz Manna, editor of Roopbaan, a LGBT publication, in a particularly vicious attack. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the murder.
Gay activist Rafiqual Islam (not his real name) spoke to AsiaNews about the situation. "We live like prisoners in this society,” he said. “The country’s laws and our relatives are against us. Every day we face difficulties because we are gay. I hope police do not behave inhumanly with these young detainees." He hopes that see those arrested will be soon released.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Theophil Nisharon Nokrek, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, noted that the Catholic Church does not approve of same-sex acts; however, the young people in question should not be persecuted.
"They are human beings and have the right to live,” he said. “If police need to enforce the country’s laws, they can do so without violating human rights."
Boys of Bangladesh, i.e. BoB, is main network of Bangladeshi gay people at home and abroad. Millions of gay Bangladeshi men and women live in a difficult situation because of society’s opposition to them.