Bangladesh appoints first transgender human rights official to ‘change attitudes’

The first transgender human rights official in Bangladesh is hoping to transform attitudes towards trans people in the country.

Tanisha Yeasmin Chaity, who was appointed to Bangladesh’s Human Rights Commission, said she was “excited” and added “it was a new beginning for the entire transgender community.”

Hijra is an umbrella term which refers to a third gender in south Asia and is sometimes used to describe transgender people.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Chaity said: “Hijras should lead lives as normal people. The attitude and mindset of society has to change in order to ensure that hijras do not have to do what they are forced to do for money.”

In 2013, hijra were officially recognised as a third sex which enabled the, to identify their gender in documents such as passports.

Despite this, they are often subjected to discrimination and rejected by family, leaving them forced to make money by begging or sex work.

Bangladeshi hijras in Dhaka (Getty Images)

“I was the only male child of the family, and thus my parents were not ready to accept these changes. Their attitude towards me changed, and they kept trying to demoralise me.

“When the pressure became overwhelming, I left my home for the first time to look for people like me in the transgender community – where I would feel safe and accepted,” she said.

Chaity said she wanted to lead a normal life with “mental peace”.

“I was not transgender by birth, and I did not like the strategies members of that community were using to raise money. So, I realised it was neither a good choice, nor a good life,” she said.

Chaity has worked for various NGOs and in 2013, started studying at Bangladesh Open University.

People observe Hijra Day in Dhaka in 2014 (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

She was told Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission was looking for executives and applied for the job.

“I am excited. It is a new beginning for the entire transgender community,” she added.

In 2014, at least 1,000 transgender hijras led Bangladesh’s first ever Pride march.

The Pride event, which took place in Dhaka, featured numerous groups wearing colourful saris and carrying banners which read: “The days of stigma, discrimination and fear are over”.

Sonali, a 25-year-old hijra, told AFP: “I never dreamt that I would see this day in my life.