A group of volunteers have launched Bangladesh's first magazine aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues hoping to promote greater acceptance of the community, who face widespread discrimination in the the Muslim-majority country.
The 56-page magazine is named after the Bengali folk character Roopbaan, who symbolizes the power of love. The quarterly magazine, whose publishers wish to remain anonymous, will not be available on street newsstands, for fear of inflaming tensions and sparking a backlash against the gay community.
Many online users have welcomed the launch, though some have received adverse reaction to their positive comments. Nowmee Shehab commented on the newspaper The Daily Star's Facebook page:
wow feeling so proud and such a sense of community through this. I am very encouraged by the brave people who put the magazine together. For those who are making religious comments- leave the judgement to God, because God is all about love and acceptance towards people who are different from you. Hopefully we can move towards a secular world where all religions are accepted and no one religion is privileged over another.
Diaspora Bangladeshi Twitter user Traveller 23 (@Traveller_23) was happy to see that the magazine's arrival has picked up media coverage:
— Traveller_23 (@Traveller_23) January 19, 2014
Robert W. Gibson, the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh (@HCRobertGibson), was present at the launch. He was pleased to support this initiative:
— Robert Gibson (@HCRobertGibson) January 19, 2014
Feminist writer Taslima Nasrin (@taslimanasreen) congratulated the initiative:
— taslima nasreen (@taslimanasreen) January 20, 2014
Emas Jubaer added:
Great, news! Finally Bangladesh is prospering. I had to leave Bangladesh for being gay, now I feel like going back and do[ing] something there. People who are arguing on this topic have no idea what is being a GAY like. They even don't know what is the word GAY means.
Bangladesh is the country with the second largest Muslim population, and homosexuality is considered to be a sin. The colonial era British anti-sodomy law punishes gay sex with fines and ten years to life in jail. Abdullah Al Galib criticized this publication:
homosexuality is a mental disease which one creates within himself. in the name of freedom they are destroying our society. well am not recognizing them for sure.
More information on the magazine can be found on its Facebook page.