by Rainer Ebert 30 January 2012 Babu and Arif have been friends from childhood. They went to school together, played on the same cricket team and had no secrets – except one, but only until recently. While they were out having phuchkas at a street stand somewhere in Dhaka, Arif suddenly slipped into an awkward
Bangladesh is among the most densely populated countries in the world and has a high poverty rate. However, per-capita (inflation-adjusted) GDP has more than doubled since 1975, and the poverty rate has fallen by 20% since the early 1990s. Dhaka and other urban centers have been the driving force behind this growth. The country has made significant progress in human development in the areas of literacy, gender parity in schooling and reduction of population growth. However, Bangladesh continues to face a number of major challenges, including widespread political and bureaucratic corruption, and discrimination against women and religious and ethnic minorities. LGBT human rights are not respected in Bangladesh, and there appears to be no organized movement to advance such human rights. And such acts of homosexuality will lead to imprisonment up to at least 10 years or even face the death penalty. Also see: Islam and Homosexuality
Arriving in Dhaka, the capitol of Bangladesh, is an instant immersion into a dense capitalistic present time that’s linked to an equally intense tradition of family and Islam. Anywhere a visitor looks there are hoards of people–dark faces, beautiful and weathered, young and old. But nowhere will one easily see anything that resembles a gay community. Homosexual life is a stealth subculture that thrives in secrecy yet enjoys the benefits of permissive friendship intimacy. However, for a first time gay visitor finding “Gay Life in Bangladesh” among the millions in Dhaka is not difficult thanks to the internet and extensive friendship networks.
Guest writer Martin Forman opens a small window onto the sly, furtive and suspicious gay ‘scene’ in the city of Sylhet, Bangladesh. This is followed by a level-headed essay by Afsan Chowdury, a native author, who writes: “there are gays in our Bengali society, and there is no sense in suppressing and stifling it.”
Along the southeast coast of Bangladesh is the Mohsin ship breaking yard where immense ocean freighters and tankers are torn apart by hundreds of gritty, lean, strong, bronze-skinned, men–by manual labor. Using blow torches, sledgehammers and wedges they carve the mammouth steel whales into chunks just off shore. After the huge pieces crash into the
Chittigong city is Bangladesh’s second largest metropolis with about four million people. For tourists there are only a few sights such as the War Cemetery, the Zia Museum, Shahi Jama-e mosque and a market. Not mentioned in guidebooks is the huge and haunting ship-breaking yard just north of the city. Photos 2-5 below reveal a
Dhaka is the capitol of Bangladesh with about 11 million people. Every form and level of life is here, from upscale mansions and privileged kids playing cricket to impoverished manual workers tearing down buildings with sledge hammers as well as women picking through garbage. Traffic is intense and dense; bicycle rickshaws by the thousands clog
Dhaka is the capitol of Bangladesh with about 14 million people. Every form and level of life is here. Dhaka University is the Cambridge of Bangladesh where only the best students gain entry (photos 10-16). The huge but polluted Buriganga River (photos 21-28) slices through the city making it a port for cargo and passengers–and
The drive from Jessore airport to Khulna city (on the way to Mongla and the Sundarbans National Park) takes about an hour and offers a ride via the village of Bagerhat where many mosques were built in the 15th century. Along the way are countless waterways where small cargo boats transport goods from one village
Traveling by car from Mongla to Khulna reveals a kaleidoscope of variety–from bicycle carts loaded with huge cargos to animal crossings to overloaded buses to busy ferry landings (in Kulna, photos 25-37). In Khulna city is the Khulna Shipyard Ltd (repairing yard) where workers including women chip paint from old hulls with hand-held chisels (photos
On the south coast of Bangladesh the Sundarbans (and Sundarbans National Park) contain the largest mangrove forests in the world. An easy boat ride from the town of Mongla (photos 51-64) leads into the forest via small rivers and rivulets. The park lies in the enormous delta at the mouth of the Ganges River and
Cox’s Bazar is Bangladesh’s beach resort town on the southeast coast near Burma. Getting there by bus from Chittagong is another colorful adventure of street life and risky vehicle drivers. Photos 1-23 reveal the vibrant social and commercial life along the main highway, including military practice maneuvers with soldiers sporting live-ammunition machine guns (photo 9).