This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

From Bangladesh: Please Stop Sharing Any Content Containing The Following…

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By YKA Staff: 

Editor’s note: This open letter has been penned by activists from Bangladesh after the brutal murders of Xulhaz Mannan, the founder and editor of the country’s first LGBT+ magazine ‘Roopban’ and his friend, actor Tanay Majumder. 

Dear all,

Representation only.

We’re writing to you from a rather desperate place in the hope that you will heed our plea. We are sure that this is reaching you because you have posted something or the other about the two murders of the gay activists in Bangladesh. We are all outraged, shaken and deeply saddened by their untimely brutal deaths. Having said that please read this carefully. Let us honor the dead but not forget the living. Please stop circulating any content containing the following, especially if you are from the North America, Europe:

1. Xulhaz Mannan as the face of the entire LGBT movement.

2. Roopbaan, or any other organization associated with the term “LGBT”.

3. Bangladesh as an Islamic fundamentalist country unsafe for secular bloggers, free thinkers or gender deviants.

4. “Freedom, diversity and tolerance are Bangladeshi values.”

You see, when you sit on powerful land and demand justice from a government, whether you are well-intentioned radical queers or people of colour or marginalized activists who want to demand justice alongside us, sharing these contents, or making this news viral will not help right now. Putting pressure on your local/national governments will not help either. However, what will happen is that this will create a false image of an “Islamic” fundamentalist country out to kill queers demanding that international well-wishers (read: Europe and USA) come and save them from the brown men. The deviants and queers are hiding but the international call for justice is making it difficult to avoid being visible. People will be writing many falsehoods, searching for quotes, searching for queers to justify, give opinions, come out and protest. But you see, when the most powerful leader (Mannan) in the country was unsafe, think about what will happen not to the other rich folk, or even the middle class folk, but the lower income folk, or those who are isolated and not networked, or are disabled or ill have always been most vulnerable but now even more so. This makes them the most easy targets for any violent backlash that may include the media/society’s call for justice around the world.

If at this point you are wondering why we are talking about visibility at all it must be noted that it is a tendency among activists and social justice folk to think awareness will take care of most problems. Awareness calls for visibility. However, visibility does not ensure safety or security. Forcing visibility in unsafe situations like this might benefit those who can seek asylum or humanitarian parole (super expensive!), or have top-notch security but it will only make those without these options totally disposable.

You might be doing it with all the good intentions, but it’s hella violent right now for us.

Already, there has been a plethora of articles shared from international news outlets on the killings and they all link back to the same rhetoric- “a rising intolerance is gripping the secular democracy of Bangladesh.” Think about those words for a second. In the past ten years about 84 killings have been claimed by religious extremist groups (some of them are dubious as they come from SITE, whose reliability with facts has very little credibility). In those ten years, how many murders and deaths have taken place in the country due to the political atmosphere, either by the ruling party or its militant youth wing Chhatro League (Youth/Students League)? The number count exceeds the thousands. Add to that the deaths of laborers in factories (i.e. Rana Plaza, Tazreen Garments fire etc) and deaths through cold-blooded murder and through forcibly removing people from their own lands for “development” (four have died in Banshkhali in Chittagong protesting the setting up of a coal-powered electric plant) and the picture we see is not of a secular democracy. Bangladesh is not a secular democracy, nor has it ever been so.

Ask yourselves what is at stake when the international media focuses on some deaths and not others? Why “free speech” and “sexual and gender diversity” and not power-grabbing, land-grabbing and coercion? Because while the West has hand-picked extremist Islam as its enemy (with the banner of ISIS) speaking out against the violence of labor practices and money-making in third world nations is not high on their agenda.

Who benefits from this global division of labor and hence the exploitation of the poor here? You got it: the rich in the West!

But if we were to look closely, the silence on some deaths and the outrage on others fits very neatly into the West’s agenda of domination- for here is yet another example of a third-world country whose ‘free speech’ needs saving from backward Islam. For one, it provides the West with key bargaining tools with which it can ramp up military outposts in the third world to fight its own battles (let us not forget that Al-Qaeda was funded by the US to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan or that Saudi Arabia and the US have been bedfellows for years). And secondly, they can use these narratives to make third-world states bend to their will through aiding the investigations of only certain murders (such as Avijit Roy’s or Xulhaz Mannan’s).

Let us refocus our attention on the narrative of tolerance. What does it mean for a country to be tolerant or intolerant? As far as media portals in the West would have us believe it is related only to speaking out against religion or against the gay (sometimes lesbian) population. Note: gay people do not encompass all the other deviants who see gender in all the different combinations possible.

And even here, only certain bodies are marked for grief and outrage and others are not. Is it not religious extremism that millions of Hindus are unaccounted for in Bangladesh, that Hindu villages burn and Hindu bodies are killed on a regular basis? Is it not violence enough when Bangali settlers forcibly remove indigenous folk from their own land and then exploit their bodies for labor? Is it also not news-worthy when queers are murdered on the streets as they go about trying to make ends meet (in February Shejuti Hijra was shot and it only warranted a small news piece)? Think, too, of the countless murders that happen which are only afforded a small column outlining name, location and manner of killing- how many of these bodies were poor, were queer and died that way?

When we are told what we need is tolerance we are only told that for certain bodies – middle class, mostly, or somehow aligned, however coincidentally, with the US ideology against Islam. This tolerance does not and will never equate to justice because those other bodies will continue dying as we push for some sort of liberal, middle-class tolerance.

To all of our queer and radical queer allies abroad and to our mainstream and/or liberal and/or left-leaning allies at home- please take all of the above into consideration. In your eagerness to help and be accounted for, you might be pushing us into a direction that benefits the Empire/West while simultaneously making life dangerous for the most vulnerable among us- those queers who do not even have the safety and mobility of the ones who were killed, those who are vulnerable due to their employment as sex workers, those who are reading all the hype on The Guardian and Buzzfeed and BBC and wondering how on earth this helps them get out of their homes because now even more people are looking their way- their battles are not with tolerance but economic justice, justice for rapes, coercion and displacement.

You all are concerned about your friends in Bangladesh. You have lost friends in Bangladesh and there are others you cannot connect with. You are feeling angry, frustrated, helpless, energized to act. Recently we had requested that people stop reaching out to the media, or embassies, or governments or posting pictures of vigils etc that might increase visibility. We do need your help, energy and rage. We are tired but grateful that there are so many wellwishers around the world but we need you to help prevent more harm. If solidarity is your aim, then help us gather resources to aid those in need, those who have now been thrust under the microscope of visibility and aid them in relocations or even economically in order to survive. The queer fight is against Western hegemony, not by its side.

Note: We use the word queer loosely since this is written in English, a language not our own. So queer is a place-holder for a deviant existence that is punished.

In rage,
অসভ্য মানুষজন (Reads as ‘Asabhya Manushjan’)

You must be to comment.
  1. Srinivas

    Nice try. It doesn’t work that way here but let me humor you. How many more deaths, how much more must the population of Hindus dwindle from the abysmal single digits it has dropped from the days of Independence, will it take for us to dare call Bangladesh an Islamic fundamentalist hell hole?

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Krishna Singh

By swonshutaa dash

By Ritwik Trivedi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below