Boys of Bangladesh
Logo of Boys of Bangladesh
|Motto||To build a strong gay community along with addressing, promoting and protecting the LGBTI rights.|
|Formation||2 November 2002|
|Purpose||LGBT rights for Bangladeshi people|
Boys of Bangladesh, popularly abbreviated BoB, formerly known as Boys Only Bangladesh, is the oldest running and the largest network of self-identified Bangladeshi gay men living in the country and abroad. Based in Dhaka, this non-registered, non-funded and non-formal group is run by a pool of volunteers. Boys of Bangladesh operates since 2002 and maintains a website, a Yahoo! Group and a Facebook page as the primary networking and communication media. In addition to online activities, BoB arranges events like consciousness-raising workshops, takes part in LGBT-related festivals and organises social get-togethers such as parties and picnics. Boys of Bangladesh aims at building a gay community in the country and repealing Section 377.
BoB started out as an online Yahoo! Group in late 2002. It initially existed under the name Boys Only Bangladesh and cooperated with another group, Teen Gay Bangladesh (TGB), with aims such as bringing gay men in Bangladesh together. BoB's founder, Dhaka-born Quazi Haque, currently residing in Sydney, Australia, created the platform out of his determination to "provide a support network for the gay population of Bangladesh". However, both groups were closed down by Yahoo! authorities by the end of 2002, and so later was Bangladeshi Gay Boys, a new online community attempting to replace TGB. Nonetheless, after reopening on 4 January 2003, BoB remains active to date, having undergone changes, such as changing its name to Boys of Bangladesh.
Initially, BoB mostly remained an online group with sporadic, closely guarded, offline social events for its selected members, staying devoid of any political edge. It was not until May 2005 when it attempted to assert itself politically by sending a letter to The Daily Star newspaper, regarding the first International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The letter, which presented a brief overview of the situation of gay community in Bangladesh and highlighted its main problems, met mostly with negative response, caused BoB to decide to stay apolitical. Around the same time, a safe sex campaign was initiated, offering HIV testings at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, and Boys of Bangladesh knotted co-operation with a Bangladeshi human rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) for a survey on sexual diversity. The number of group members had significantly grown by 2006, however, the state of emergency introduced in the country stopped BoB from organising any events for some period of time.
In May 2008, BoB celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) at a café in Dhaka, which marked the first time when BoB appeared openly in public as a group of gay activists with the acknowledgment of the venue authority. In September, a BoB member, Shakhawat Hossain, participated in an international workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal, titled "South Asian Partnership Building Workshop", organised by a Nepalese LGBT rights organisation, Blue Diamond Society. In February 2009, with the help from the Norwegian National Association for Lesbian and Gay Liberation, BoB organised the first LGBT-related workshop in Bangladesh, titled "Workshop on Sexual Diversity, Partnership Building and Networking". November saw an arrangement of another event which met with positive reception.
Subsequently, Boys of Bangladesh secured an office space that would serve as its headquarters and resource centre. A rainbow flag was hoisted in the office premise to announce its existence as well as express its solidarity with the worldwide LGBT movement, which also marked the first time a rainbow flag had been unfurled in a public place in Bangladesh. In October 2010, BoB took part in the second instalment of "Under the Rainbow", a cultural event initiated by the Goethe-Institut in Bangladesh to discuss LGBT issues in the country. The five-day festival included movie screenings, art exhibitions and musical performances, bringing together leading human rights activists from within the country and abroad. In April 2011, BoB organised a conference with Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS) and South Asian Human Rights Commission of Marginalized Sexualities and Genders (SAHRCMSG), and contributed to production of a short film Without Any Window of His Own, which was later screened at the International Festival of Documentary Film on Liberation and Human Rights in Dhaka's Central Public Library. 2012 saw further events organised by BoB, including a series of "Let's Talk" workshops and a celebration of IDAHO with the presence of international representatives.
Members of BoB celebrating IDAHO in 2010
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