Sexuality In Urban Middle Class Bangladesh Economics Essay

Bing a Muslim dominated population with a assorted civilization of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam- Bangladesh is a at a important yet fascinating point in history where it struggles to be portion of a globalized universe and still keep a instead conservative social-culture. Sexual activity is a forbidden subject and gender is purely understood within ‘heteronormative ‘ model, within which though ‘deviance ‘ for work forces is tolerated and frequently ignored but the same for adult females isalmost denied.

The paper, is derived from my ain PhD field research work ( on Women and Sexuality in urban in-between category Bangladesh ) , aims to research and understand how single non-heterosexual adult females live, challenge or ‘counter ‘ heteronormativity in urban in-between category Bangladesh through adult females ‘s personal narrations. It aims to ask how adult females, of this peculiar category, in their lives define, assert and pattern their ain gender and sexual identity- which includes changeless procedure of dialogue, deal, use, conciliation, and schemes. Using the construct of heteronormativity, the paper, because of its restriction of range, narrows down to non-heterosexual adult females ‘s ain narrations of ‘identity ‘ formation within their in-between category being in Bangladesh, and therefore, hope to open infinite for apprehension of how heteronormativity works and operates in the sexual lives and individualities of adult females.

The paper is outlined as such:

Section 1: Contextual Background: Bangladesh ;

Section 2: Concepts presents the paper ‘s apprehension of gender and heteronormativity, every bit good as research inquiries and methodological analysis ;

Section 3: Life Sexs and non speaking so ‘straight ‘ , individuality formation of non-heterosexual adult females ;

Section 4: The ‘Invisible ‘ adult females, in which I talk about the invisibleness and societal exclusion of non-heterosexual adult females in mainstream societal lives every bit good as from the LGBT movement/community.

Section 5: decision.

Section 1: Contextual Background Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a South Asiatic developing state, and is one of the largest Moslem states of the universe, which means Bangladesh has Islam as its official State Religion, is dominated by Muslim ( particularly the Sunni Muslim ) and Islamic norms and patterns. This influence has major deductions on province policy, civilization and the lives of spiritual minorities. Bangladesh has a population of about 140 million, doing it one of the most dumbly populated states of the universe. The bulk ( about 88 % ) of the people is Muslim, and over 98 % of the people speak in Bangla ( Statistical Pocket Book of Bangladesh, 2007 ) . Bangladesh is a extremely patriarchal society in which work forces are at top of gender power, and have control over women`s labor, gender, income, and assets- both through public and private sphere domination system. Womans are taught and frequently made to depend on work forces throughout their lives ( male parents, hubbies and boies ) ; and a adult female without any male `guardian` or protection is seen as vulnerable. Marriage is a norm, and mandatory heterosexualism is the normative signifier of recognized gender. Because of preservation societal civilization and laterality of faith, any aberrance from norm has societal or legal effects, particularly if aberrance is of sexual nature. constitutionally ( Article 377 homosexualism is a punishable offense, and there is no proviso of matrimony or civil brotherhood for same-sex relation or any gender individuality other than male and female. Modesty and celibacy are of paramount importance for adult females, and the construct of protecting `family honour` or `izzat` sees into the control of female gender. In Bangladesh female gender is frequently controlled through denial of entree to information on sex, gender and generative map. ( Khan et al 2002 ; Rashid 2007 ) . In spite being a Muslim dominated and culturally conservative society, Bangladesh sees a much more relaxed gender dealingss and sharing of infinites compared to many other Islamic states, and the rigorous impression of `public and private` can be, and frequently is, a blurry one, where adult females move in and out of male spheres. [ 1 ] The UNDP Gender Development Index ( GDI ) for 2004 ranked Bangladesh 110 among 144 states, an addition of 13 places since 1999. [ 2 ] Women`s engagement in public work topographic points have increased in the recent old ages and steady addition in women`s engagement in instruction, labour market and political relations has contributed to an improved gender state of affairs in Bangladesh, but at the same clip, this addition in `path-crossing` of public and private and independency has made the issue of gender, individuality and its averment a more debatable and challenged one.

Section 2: The constructs

I understand gender from a feminist position:

Sex refers to … facets of personal and societal life which have titillating significance ‘ , non merely ‘individual titillating desires, patterns and individualities ‘ but besides the discourses and societal agreements which construct titillating possibilities at any one clip.

( Andermahr, Lovell and Wolkowitz ( 1997 ) citing Jackson and Scott, ( 1996 ) as: 1997:245 )

It hence, recognizes the fact that what is defined as titillating varies from context to context, and hence, what is encompassed by the term is far from fixed. But I do take this definition of gender as an entry point for this research because a ) it lists what is loosely included in gender: titillating desires, patterns and identities- therefore scoping it from an intimate personal point to a broader issue of individuality ; B ) it relates the personal with societal, particularly within discourses that create societal agreements, and faith is a dominant discourse in most societies that constructs ‘erotic possibilities ‘ , particularly in this instance for adult females ; degree Celsiuss ) it specifies that all these are clip and context particular, hence, leting me to warrant my survey of a specific category context and clip line.

My survey is situated in a little but turning organic structure of literature on adult females ‘s gender in Bangladesh. Sexuality surveies in Bangladesh, particularly adult females ‘s gender surveies, are a recent phenomenon, but something that is deriving importance easy and steadily. On a wide degree, I am interested in gender as a subject and adult females ‘s gender in peculiar. Different attacks to sexuality merely turn out that gender does non hold one or ready-made theoretical model, which could be prescribed for a research like this. But, because this is a survey about dealingss between gender and category and gender- specifically adult females ‘s gender – a broader analytical model used here would be a societal constructionist one, taking gender as an analytical tool. The apprehension is that gender is socially constructed every bit good as subjective ; and that its significances are expressed in linguistic communication ( discourses ) every bit good as actions ( patterns ) .

What lies at the nucleus of this research are the constructs of: heteronormativity, Sexuality and Gender. Heteronormativity: why is it cardinal to the research?

‘…the inquiry is non whether ( hetero ) gender is natural. All facets of our societal universe – natural or otherwise – are given significance. The existent issue is, how we give intending to heterosexualism and what involvements are served by these meanings…Without a systematic analysis of this establishment ( i.e. heterosexualism ) – assorted inquiries go unanswered…the broader inquiry at manus, ‘who decides what counts as appropriate and necessary and under what conditions is their authorization legitimate? It is cultural intending systems that determine ( with our understanding, of class ) what counts as natural or unnatural. And it is cultural intending systems that regulate what should be the ‘proper ‘ intervention or response to anything ‘inappropriate ‘ or ‘unnatural. ( Ingraham, 2002:73-74 )

This research aims to prosecute itself with a scope of single averment that adult females make to dispute or ‘counter ‘ heteronormativity in Bangladesh, particularly in the instances of non-heterosexual adult females. In that procedure, it besides aims to understand and oppugn the dominant, its building in footings of influential elements/phenomenon like history, political relations, category, faith etc. As indicated by many researches [ 3 ] , it is of paramount importance to follow the history or function of a term, for illustration, here heteronormativity, in the specific context of the survey ( here Bangladesh ) . As Bangladesh is a comparatively new state, was portion of the Indian sub-continent, hence, portion of the British settlement, this function of procedure through history can be understood by researches done in the continent, particularly in India ( which is ample and rich ) . The path normally would take one through the procedures over the nineteenth century where two opposed inclinations or forces- British colonial intercessions and outgrowth of new nations- came together to make the same consequence of wipe outing homosexuality and naturalizing heterosexualism ( Menon, 2007:8 ) . Specific surveies on Bengal ( which includes both present Bangladesh and Indian province of Bengal ) uncover how modernness, with its influence of instruction, created a dominant ‘Bhadrolok ‘ ( gentlemen ) ways of things for both maleness and muliebrity, and therefore reenforcing the good housewife-ideal matrimony sort of heteronormativity as norm.

Heteronormativity is important to analyze gender because it produces peculiar signifiers of household, gendered individualities, and makes merely certain desires as natural, acceptable and as something that have existed through eternity- and much of these are institutionalized and continued through mechanism of province and its Torahs. But a careful survey of the term in its conceptual and historic mapping merely reveals the porousness and instability of the double stars and boundaries that constitute heteronormativity- the undertaking is to inquiry or interrogate these through the lived experiences of persons.

I adopt the lens of heteronormativity, in its broader, all inclusive meaning- it would let me to understand category, gender, power, individuality, subordination every bit good as agency- and faith would necessarily be portion of these disclosures. It would besides let me to look into what constructs the dominant norms, image and representation of gender for adult females in modern-day Bangladesh, and person ‘s life narratives and narratives will assist me to understand both the dominant every bit good as the options that are lived by people, at least in their private kingdoms of life.

Hetronormativity, as it is an analytical model for this research, is non merely understood as ‘compulsory heterosexualism ‘ , as it would so merely intend to be challenged by homosexualism. But heteronormativity can and should besides be understood beyond this range of homosexualism or same-sex dealingss, as one can be heterosexual and non be heteronormative- because the Southern Cross of the affair is non merely what is the sexual penchant of an person or how one is ‘fit ‘ into a the hegemonic heterosexual classs, but to understand whether a individual conform to a/some societal formation that emphasizes on or built on a heterosexual patriarchal monogamous household unit, largely within the model of matrimony. In this visible radiation, it is non merely people who have same-sex penchants, but besides those who are either remain individual, and sexually active outside matrimony, or have kids outside marriage- in other words who embrace gender, maternity etc outside the heteronormative societal norms and boundaries of this given society and therefore transgress heteronormative political orientation which is expected to be the ‘foundation ‘ of the societal individualities of its members, particularly of adult females. But it besides remains cognizant of the fact that there are power kineticss that are based on gender functions ( frequently play backing the dominant norms ) and gender subordination in all relationships, be it same sex or heterosexual- as gendered functions and attendant subordination are based on differences between single entree and control of resources, which once more, in bend is related to the category issue in one manner or the others. Therefore, a nexus between gender subordination and heteronormativity is to be explored in person ‘s lived experiences of gender.

The focal point of this survey is urban in-between category, which I consider as a important category for a assortment of grounds. It is of import because it is a category that is going focal point of surveies in South Asia in the context of globalisation and liberalisation as it has expanded as a category which benefits from the neo-liberal economic system. Furthermore, liberalisation has affected the economic facets of its peoples ‘ lives, but besides lifestyles in footings of ingestion, picks, mobility etc. Along with these, there are the altering influences of faith ( including fundamentalism ) and the ways gender dealingss and representations, power kineticss particularly within families, and more relevantly for this research, the alterations in gender and individuality discourses – therefore associating it to the broader on-going arguments on civilization and modernness in South Asia. I am cognizant of the fact that ‘middle category ‘ as a generic term is debatable as there is surely no fixed definition or income degree that ‘boxes ‘ this class.

This peculiar paper has a specific set of research inquiries:

  • How make non-heterosexual adult females form their sexual individualities in urban in-between category Bangladesh?
  • How do adult females in same-sex relationships negotiate, challenge, resist, reinforce and/or make usage of heteronormative ways of in-between category life style?

As a portion of PhD research work, non-heterosexual adult females formed one of the three groups of people that I collected life-stories of, and in entire there are 10 narrations of non-heterosexual adult females that will be used for this paper.

Section 3: Life Sexs and non speaking so ‘straight ‘

3.1 How do we speak about sex, gender and desire in modern-day urban Bangla: heternormativity constructed through mundane linguistic communication

The building of heteronormativity in public discourse in Bangladesh is evidently multi-faceted, and is a complex undertaking. Sexuality and its building can be found in popular media, literature and on spiritual discourse. But for the intent of this paper, Is have chosen the mundane words and phrases of gender that are normally used in urban contexts, particularly within in-between category educated young person.

Bengali linguistic communication has titillating words that address the issues of sex and gender, and many of these words are poetic and are used in literature, and in context of love. But mundane words that express sex, gender, and desires have a different class which is dominated by slangs, violent-aggressive heteronormative words and phrases. For the intent of this research I decided to do a list of these ‘commonly used sex-words ‘ in urban Dhaka, sourced to me by my sources and their societal groups. I did name out for part by willing participants to direct me lists of the words they know of and utilize sing sex and gender. The adult females came up with the least figure and least figure of ‘slangs’- non because they were seeking to look good, but because they merely did n’t cognize or did non hold the societal chances to larn or utilize such words. It was work forces ( both homosexual and heterosexual ) , runing from 25 to 35, who could give a broad scope of sexual words that are in usage in Bangla, in modern-day Dhaka. When asked to do the list, work forces did warn me, with small embarrassment that the words would be ‘unsophisticated ‘ , crass and natural, and violative at times. For illustration, one ( consecutive adult male, a poet and pupil of Journalism in a public university ) took 2 yearss clip to believe about words, and after 2 yearss said apologetically, ‘ I am really sorry…I hold realized that I merely know slangs, and nil else…and I use those often…when I am with my girlfriend ( I say it in my head ) ; and when I am with my friends ( I say those aloud ) ; and to badger women…I mean, I do n’t cognize any ‘good ‘ words… it is all slangs…I am really surprised to see that I do n’t cognize any beautiful words about sex ‘ .

Peoples with some English linguistic communication accomplishments ( or picked up from media ) use English words in mundane life to speak about sex. Sexual activity is ‘sex ‘ , and a normally used word is ‘sexual/ ( sexy? ) ‘ to depict anything ( from a people to attitude, frock, desire ) that has any intension of sex to it. The most common inquiry to us ( me and my research helper ) was, ‘oh, you are looking for ‘gali’.i.e. slangs ‘ ? and were advised to read the ‘Choti ‘ books ( brochures on sex, frequently in narrative signifiers, that are available normally from street sellers ) . It is obvious, from observations and from contemplations of our social-cultural upbringing that ‘choti ‘ books have been and still are the beginning of sex-education for most immature people, who can read Bangla.

Lists of gender related Bangla words and phrases

List 1: basic words

Word/phrase in English





jouno kaj, jouno milon, sohobash, kharap kaj, sharirik melon, chuda chudi, aakum-ku kaam,

Dhurpit ( hijara linguistic communication )


The highlighted words mean ‘to engage with bad act ‘ ; to make things that are ‘not-socially sanctioned ‘ . Sexual activity is considered a ‘bad ‘ activity.

‘to hole ‘ or to ‘fit in ‘



purush linggo, Nunu, Dhon, bara, laaura, Shona, Becha, Goponanggo, ,

Legam ( hijra/transgendervocabulary )

These words really mean something cherished: hoarded wealth, large, and gold



Jounanggo, joni, moina, vodha,

mang, heada, gudh

Moina: a bird

Vodha: dumb/stupid



Pacha, putki, hoga,

batli ( hijra ) , nitombo, back side


Anal sex

pasha Mara Cheremis kora, putki Mara,

batlite nea ( hijra ) , hoga Mara, back side vitamin E kora, gua Mara

All the phrases have ‘mara ‘ , intending to ‘hit ‘ of penetrate suffixed with a word that describes the ‘anus ‘ . The intension is ever active, and aggressive


Oral sex

( fellatio ) Shona chusha, dhon chusha, bara chusha, muk Drug Enforcement Administration kora, mukhe phallus newa, chumu dewa,

( cunnilinctus ) : chaata

For fellatio, the verb is to ‘suck ‘ ;

Cunnilingus: to cream ( non a common word or look or even a construct )



( work forces )


kharap kaj, baje kaj,

pola pola

chuda chudi, putki Mara Cheremis kora,

MSM ( ngo oword ; – ) , homosexual, purushe purushe jouno kaj kora,

jeena kora, haram kaj, hijrader kaj,

= lecherousness for same sex



To ‘fuck ‘ , ‘to push ‘

NGO words, that try to be more ‘socially and politically right ‘

To perpetrate ‘zeena ‘ ( Islamic word for illicit sex ) ; to make something ‘haram ‘ ; an act done by ‘hijra ‘ or transgender ‘ ( unnatural )



( adult females )

Shomokami nari


2 narite prem,

meye meye jouno / meye meye K Persephone


Lust for same sex ( adult females )

‘love ‘ for the same

Love between two adult females ;

Sexual activity between two women/ adult females making adult females

A recent phrase for tribades, ‘Lace-ribbon ‘ . The word phonetically matches with ‘lesbian ‘ as in Bengali ‘lace ‘ is pronounced as ‘les’…and the construct of ‘lace-fita ‘ is likely rooted in the traditional feminine dressing up/ or aesthetics for self-care. ( sellers sell lace-fita and everything feminine from door to door, in vicinities at uneven hours like afternoon when adult females normally are at place and have opportunity of disbursement clip with each other- training, beauty attention etc are cardinal activities )


Sexual activity worker

Wise Men, beshsha, khanki,

jouno kormi, deho posharini, shorir bekreta,

rater pori,

Baje meye, mondo meye, hotel Er meye, raster meye, potita, mokhi ranee, taka Drug Enforcement Administration jader shate sex kora jai ( these all for female sex workers ) .

( work forces ) Hooker, bodyguard, money male child etc.

Loose adult females in a scope of degrading words ;

Sex-worker ; adult female who sells organic structure ;

Night angels ;

Bad adult females ; adult females of the hotels ; adult females on route ; fallen adult female ; who you can sleep together for money ;

( all the words are for adult females, and no 1 I spoke to had any bracelet word/s for male-sex workers )

There are besides words and phrases that are non, what can be termed as ‘direct ‘ words, but are used to depict a sexual activity, sexed organic structure, and value judgements for sexual morality, desirableness and laterality in a sexual or possible sexual dealingss. And the list below have such words and phrases that is normally used by largely work forces ( and some adult females ) aged 20-30, and particularly in conversation among educated in-between category immature people. These are situated in heterosexual societal scenes. See attachment 1 for extra listing of words and phrases.

A close expression at the words and stages reveal that looks of sex, gender and sexual desires are inherently masculine in nature, and violent in action. The deficiency of female desire, active engagement or even gender reputability is hard to happen. Except for the phrase `Lace-fita` , which is all female-sexuality orientated, all other words are embedded in compulsory heterosexualism, and in instance of aberrance, it is expressed with either ridicule or force. A farther probe of a 2nd list ( attachment 1 ) will demo that in mundane sexual talk, female organic structure and gender is objectified and a inclination or commiting the organic structure with force and indignity characterises these look, maleness and muliebrity is established as active versus passive ; adult females are seen sexual objects when they are outside a legal – monogamous relation ; and maleness is proved through virility. None of these are extra-ordinary or new, or different from other linguistic communications. Heteronormativity is dominant in all civilizations, to variant grades, and hence, its lingual looks are more or similar to each other. In instance of Bangladesh, which has a really high prevalence of force against adult females, and gender based force, which are closely associated with the impressions of sex and gender- it is, hence, of import that one takes notice of linguistic communication of gender and how gender and heteronormativity is constructed on mundane footing.

Lack of words for female gender and its look of desires is important, because in the undermentioned subdivision, through the narrations of adult females, we will see that apprehension of personal titillating desires, its significances and averments, particularly in coming in footings with one`s identity- it is the deficiency of vocabulary, in individual`s ain linguistic communication and immediate surroundings- drama of import function. [ 4 ] Women`s unavailability to information on genders, their gender-conditioning of sexual repression or suppression and impulse to understand their ain bodily desires can be challenged because of how they come to cognize about gender or most of the times, related to their ignorance` of the topic.

In the undermentioned subdivision, women`s ain narrations of sexual individuality and the procedure through which they articulate their recognition of non-heterosexual desires, are presented.

3.2 `Lace-Fita`- Women Loving Womans: Sex and Identity formation among non-heterosexual adult females

It is non lone restriction of vocabulary that brings trouble in jointing gender, desires and individuality for adult females in general, and non-heterosexual adult females in peculiar ; but it besides the restriction of infinites in which they can talk of their lives that can be instrumental in suppression. Spaces that does non other` non-normative genders, or where one does non `pass-off` as heterosexual, or where all tools of looks of gender is non heternormative can be found seldom. Though adult females in my survey, normally, took long clip to hold to give their narrations, but one time a relationship of common trust and regard was built ( chiefly because of my ain heterosexualism and non being portion of the `gay community` and the fright of being exposed and confronting societal requital ) , an avidity and willingness to state their narratives.

One of the intents of the survey is to follow a narrative attack to the survey of sexual individuality among non-heterosexual adult females in urban in-between category Bangladesh, and to research how, in what ways individuality is constructed in relation to cultural discourses and representations n Bengali society. Therefore, the following narrations of a group of sapphic adult females reflect on their lives, and in peculiar how their sexual picks and orientations are integrated or determining their personal individualities. I interviewed 10 non-heterosexual ( sapphic and bi-sexual ) adult females, age runing from 20-60, all from urban in-between category background, largely ab initio contacted through a snow-ball procedure and interviewed through a clip of 10 months, in Bangladesh. Though the original narrations are existent life-histories and are portion of a broader PhD research undertaking, for this paper, I will utilize selected parts of some narrations that are related to gender and individuality.

3.2.1 Describing non-heterosexual desires: `Discover, Dilemma and Denials` of same-sex attractive force

Women papers in their narrations their journey of detecting their genders, their attractive force for same sex- which frequently is encountered with a self-awareness of their desires but besides their difference from others, particularly against their ain cultural dominant theoretical account of mandatory heterosexualism. Such brushs makes manner to dilemmas and struggles in women`s heads as they try to do sense of their ain feelings, titillating desires and gender against the societal building of demonizing or at least stigmatizing anything other than heterosexual individuality. Sala and Benitiz ( 2009 ) in their survey of sapphic women`s narrations of sexual individualities in Spanish civilization, explains how ` … participants explain really clearly the troubles they faced when foremost considered the possibility of being homosexual, an thought that is even hard to explicate owing to a deficiency of vocabulary. … here we see the effects of hetersexism in hushing nonnormative individualities, emotions and desires. There are no words to speak about it- and if we do non speak about it, it does non be. ` ( 2009: 828-829 )

Life narrative of Flora, for illustration, is a good illustration of how adult females through different stages of life come to detect her ain sexual desires ; face quandary and struggle and travel through heterosexualization procedure, and eventually, through exposure alternate individualities and possibilities of non-normative life manners every bit good as with linguistic communication tools and entree to information – how a adult female can come in footings with her sexual individuality.


Is a 58 twelvemonth old Self identified ‘lesbian ‘ ( she prefers to be called `Shomo-premi, i.e. one who LOVES individual of same sex ) . An outed sapphic Flora is an militant and the laminitis of support group for adult females in same-sex dealingss. Flora is profoundly spiritual and follows Islam ; has been successful in her professional calling in development sector. Though she hailed from a little town in Bangladesh, and still has her roots at that place, but she lives in Dhaka, and can be termed as a Dhaka urban in-between category adult female. She lives an independent life, and has her ain life infinite, a level. Brought up in a instead conservative household and surrounding ( where misss did non go on schooling after pubescence ) , she made an exclusion. Her male parent dressed her as a small male child ( in traditional male frock of ‘lungi ‘ and shirt ) boulder clay she was 8/9 old ages old and when she was handed feminine frocks, she was disquieted and ‘wanted to turn into a male child ‘ ! Flora had reached puberty a small early, around the age of 11-12, holding menses at that age made her feel disgusted about her organic structure and she wished to turn into a male child every bit shortly as possible ( though she mentions that ne’er of all time in her life she has been uncomfortable with her organic structure or gender ) . She besides says that sexual consciousness and that of the organic structure came instead late in life for her. So, when the matrimony proposal came, and she agreed to get married was non because she had much thought about matrimony, connubial life etc, but she was merely excited to cognize that she would or could make her end, i.e. go throughing School concluding test.

At the age of 14 and half, Flora got married to a adult male, 10 old ages older, really different from her and who was non that educated. After marrying she moved in with her hubby in Sylhet, another little town and got into a misss ‘ school – ‘everything looked wonderful- I loved everything about life, the world- misss of my age, books, trees, category, sky, tiffin period – everything! The universe changed for me! But it was a different, the existent universe for me- poles apart from the family that I shared with my hubby. I hated traveling back place, to hold to hold sex with him- painful, stiff, uncomfortable and life a anguish. I loved remaining in school! ‘

It is in school, that Flora had a love relation with a miss. A schoolmate of her ‘s ‘knocked ‘ at her, and she responded. Though there was nil sexual between the two, it was a really close, fond relation between the two- exchanging secret love letters, sharing bites in break clip ; keeping custodies and merely basking each other ‘s presence. It was merely one time that her ‘friend ‘ kissed her, which she did non dislike much, in fact liked it a batch, though there was n’t much beyond that! ( her hubby had ne’er kissed her ) . This relation continued for a twelvemonth, but after a twelvemonth her hubby had to switch base to another territory, and the two friends separated. Letterss continued for a piece, but after the school concluding test, there was no answer from the other miss, likely because she was besides married off by that clip.

At the age of 17, Flora left her hubby without much vacillation as she planned to go on with her college, which the hubby was non really lament on ; and she returned to her parents ‘ place amidst dirts and much societal humiliation. After many efforts of freedom ( including running off from place ) , she was sent to Dhaka, to her sister, to go on with her instruction. It was in Dhaka that vegetations would finish her instruction, till MA grade, and largely remaining at misss ‘ inns. It is during her undergraduate yearss, she fell in love with a friend of her and they shared a ‘committed ‘ relationship- so much so that they planned to populate together after their graduation, and she started aggregation family material together for their hereafter. Flora ‘s girlfriend proved to be a bi-sexual and she started holding a relation with another adult male, whom she married and left the state with. HH felt highly betrayed and ‘carried the load of that box full of utensils etc that she gathered along with her ex-girlfriend ‘ , and she carried that load for around 5 old ages.

She gave matrimony another opportunity, after set uping herself financially and in a calling. She was in her early 30s, and she was non really ‘firm on her sexual penchant ‘ , as she started believing of matrimony, chiefly because, there was household outlooks from her to acquire married and acquire settled and besides because she was non against work forces as such. She felt that she was really attracted to a good personality, non because person was a adult female or a adult male. She married a co-worker of her ‘s, but this matrimony besides did non work for her, as she found that they lived in two opposite poles. At this clip, vegetations got a scholarship in Europe, and her hubby decided to travel to the USA and abandon her. This divorce made her parents really sad. During her stay in Europe, Flora came in touch with people who were unfastened about gender and introduced her to the planetary sexual rights movements- the discourses of gender, it is besides at this clip, she made friends with another fellow pupil who took her to seminar/conferences on gender and helped her to larn more about these issues. She besides had a sexual relation with this friend, a first clip proper sexual relation with any adult female.

‘I ne’er thought my involvement in adult females as something exceeding, unnatural or excess ordinary- I have seen, understood this as a self-generated and natural and right because it felt right to me. What other people were/are making, who they are making is ne’er my concern, but I do what I think is right! … All my life I felt that I was the lone adult female here, in this state, who was like this…I would look for others, but could non find….but once more, I used to believe, there must be other adult females like me, because I have had adult females who were attracted to me, I had girlfriends who loved me as well…where are these people, who are these women….where do I happen them? How does one happen them?

Flora has had dealingss, and lived together with her former spouse, in her ain flat. She feels that that her personality, her professional calling, and instruction added to the `respectability` and `acceptability` or at least being `left alone` by others, and allowed her to unrecorded life, at this point on her ain footings. Her front door athleticss a `women in same-sex relation` spine and it is, in fact, a statement that she makes without the aid of words. Flora makes an interesting and of import point: the personal relationship with households, particularly with parents and siblings. It is because she has had a really solid relation with her household, and the fact that her household members values her, as a individual, and loves her unconditionally, it becomes easier for them to accept what she likes or who she likes. Of class they could be hurt, if there was bad imperativeness sing her personal life, but it would non be because of what others might state, but because of their realisation that it might hold hurt her. Family support, credence and love- are cardinal to populate a happy life with picks made by adult females.

The quandary besides derives from societal building and acquisition of what aught to be `normal` desire, i.e. heterosexual, but besides what adult females get conflicted between whether the sexual orientation is essentialist in nature or it is a later-life building stemming out of other experiences, particularly because of sexual force or other negative experiences. It is non uncommon in adult females with same-sex desire or attractive force to believe that sexual orientations can be compromised, and re-oriented, negotiated and if, made adequate attempt and given chances, they can heterosexualised. Much of the quandary and struggle comes from the fact that being in a really restrictive straight person and male dominated civilization, and particularly because of overarching presence of faith, there is no point of mention, in discourses or in patterns that adult females can mention to as a possibility for holding a non-heterosexual individuality as such. Because of rigorous marriage-normativity, adult females, whatever might be their sexual desires and orientations, tend to give in to marriage and give heterosexualism a opportunity.

Narrative narratives of Parveen and Mukta, from different age group captures the heterosexualization procedure and the `denials` of one`s averment of sexual individuality along with denial of sexual-self to such an extend that it about violates human-sexual rights. Particularly with the instance of Mukta, the deficiency of linguistic communication or the tools of self-expression every bit good as deficiency of role-model, a mention point for non-normative life individuality is a premier illustration of why non-heterosexual adult females remain unseeable and closeted in Bangladesh.


Aged 51, a semi-outed tribade, and portion of sapphic adult females ‘s support group. She was a national degree athleticss person/player, now works for and a successful manager for misss ‘ squads and she is the first and the lone female manager for professional male squads. She has a girl from her matrimony, which ended up in divorce. She has ever had attractive force for adult females, and has late revived her love matter from high school days- her lover is a malignant neoplastic disease subsister, a married adult female with kids.

She stands out in a Bengali crowd because of her salt-pepper short hair, stout and fit organic structure and confident stature, which by and large would be termed as ‘masculine ‘ by many. She holds a senior authorities station in athleticss and is an highly dedicated to her occupation and recruits participants from around the state and develop them for athleticss that are ever termed as ‘boy ‘s game ‘ .

Parveen was born in Bhola, a territory in Southern coastal territory of Bangladesh. She was the eldest kid of her parents and spent her early childhood in that little territory at her maternal grand-parents` place. She recalls a really active, full of athleticss, free childhood at her grandparents ‘ house, where her uncles would do football squads in post-harvest Paddy Fieldss and take her along with them. Her gramps used to purchase her Lungi- and white hawai shirt for her, which was a typical frock for solvent work forces in rural Bangladesh.

In Dhaka, she went to misss ‘ school and college, and would be into athleticss from really early yearss. She took portion in national degree competitions, came for patterns to athleticss complex itself as a immature participant. She subsequently studied in Dhaka University, completed her undergraduate surveies and MA in Bengali literature and Language. Later in life, she worked as a Bengali instructor in a prima Girls ‘ college, which she did non go on with for excessively long as she chose athleticss calling over that. There was ne’er any expostulation or opposition from her ain household sing her involvement and engagement in active athleticss or even taking up a calling in this field.

Parveen was married off to a adult male who she did non truly like or take. Since the force per unit area of matrimony was constructing up on her for obvious societal grounds, she eventually gave her consent for matrimony. Her parents take the hubby, based on really typical Bengali standards: good looking, stable occupation with authorities, really good household ( and extended household every bit good ) . Parveen says, even though the matrimony lasted for 9 old ages, but she was ne’er happy or felt connected to her hubby. But once she gave into matrimony, she was committed to it as she wanted to do it work. The matrimony suffered from its early phase, and all attempts proved to be ineffectual with clip. They had a kid, a girl at the ulterior phase of their matrimony, but even child could no salvage the matrimony.

When asked whether the failure of the matrimony had anything to make with her ain sexual orientation or non, she said that sex was ever a job, and giving athleticss and/or occupation ( she gave up athleticss foe few old ages on her ain one time she got married ) could non bridge the spread, particularly the physical 1. She was non a butch or anything ; she had long hair, wore saris and looked every spot the Bengali wife/woman that one is expected to be. When her girl was a few old ages old, she got a family for a twelvemonth in another state, which she took up for few grounds: a ) by that clip she and her hubby had decided to divide and finally divorce ; B ) her girl and she was remaining with her parents, and she knew her girl would be good taken attention of by her ain female parent.

During her stay outside Bangladesh, she developed a sexual relation with another adult male, which ended when she returned place. The obvious inquiry to her, at this point is, what or how does she depict her sexual individuality. Parveen identifies herself as a adult female who love adult females ( shomo-premi ) . She tells me that from a really early phase in life, she was attracted to misss. But same-sex attractive forces were ever kept under the radio detection and ranging. It was in her high school yearss that she fell in love with her friend, who, harmonizing to her, was his fantastic, beautiful miss, who could dance and sing. They were ever more than friends, but ne’er to the full sexually- but would remain near to each other, would keep each other closer, put weaponries around her waistline when no 1 was detecting. They understood the fact that they were attracted to each other, and that they were in love and with clip.

Parveen`s relation with her girlfriend ended bit by bit when she went to university, where she had other girlfriends. Like many other Bangladeshi adult females in same-sex relationships, Parveen besides did non really hold sex with any of her girlfriends during these relationships. For her, she can merely hold sex when she loves a individual. Random, insouciant sex is non her thing. And she mentioned at this point in the conversation that, she would finally hold sex with the adult female she loved and turn out her strong belief, value and unity right!

Parveen narrates that minute when she would run into her girlfriend ( married with kids ) after decennaries, now a malignant neoplastic disease patient: ‘I went to her house and in the dining infinite everyone else was sitting, and there was she, sitting on a chair, turning her dorsum to me- I could acknowledge her instantly, even after all these old ages and alterations in visual aspect. She had put on weight and looked different, frail and ill- but when I saw her, I could non defy, a feeling that I had been avoiding to face for a really long clip. Since that twenty-four hours, that minute, for the following few months, I barely spent any minute without seeing each other. I was accepted by the hubby ; chiefly because she was so sick and they understood that I was of import to her ( this welcome and credence would be less with clip, as she recovered from her complaint ) . She became better, and I was ever with her, there was this get together at a farm-house outside Dhaka, a get together with friends, and it was at that place, for the first clip they had sex, after all these old ages, but with person she loved!

Interestingly, even though they have continued with their relationship, Parveen declined her girlfriend`s offer of go forthing hubby and kids for a life together with each other. Parveen explained why: she feels that she is more calculating than unprompted girfriend, and in no manner she is willing to mess up with their lives! Harmonizing to her, ‘if I get involved with her, I would non be able to return of all time from that or from her!


Aged 32, individual ( divorced ) , is from Sylhet, one of the most conservative territories of Bangladesh. She is a in-between category adult female, college bead out and lives with her household, which is really spiritual ( her male parent was a maulana, i.e. sermonizer ) . She has been in love with her friend ‘s elder sister- a married adult female with two adult up children- for over 12 old ages now. She is literally the ‘shadow ‘ of that lady, who tells everyone that Mukta is like her younger sister and that she is a small loony. Mukta is really good accepted and integrated by that lady ‘s household every bit good as hubby. They all see it as ‘deep friendly relationship ‘ . Mukta ‘s household thinks otherwise, and they forced her into a matrimony, which ended bitterly in a month and half ‘s clip. Mukta is sexually attracted to her lady, but that desire is non reciprocated, but she does n’t give up. She sees herself as ‘unnatural ‘ , and since her formal Bengali linguistic communication accomplishment is limited and has no cognition of English, she does n’t cognize where to look for information on her type of desire, or how to joint it. She hopes that one twenty-four hours the hubby will decease and kids will turn up and go forth their Dendranthema grandifloruom, and so she can claim her beloved.

Mukta wanted to be portion of the research, in order to `talk` out her `secrets, ideas and confessions` , to speak about her `story` and to happen out whether she was `satanic` unnatural` because of her desire for a adult female. Bing from an Orthodox spiritual household, and brought up in a spiritual ambiance, Mukta chiefly had female friends and comrades, and her socialization was restricted to shut household and friends. Religion, Islam, that condemns homosexualism, is an country of contention for her, which she struggles to cover with, particularly because of her father`s repute as a spiritual adult male, a sermonizer:

`I ne’er turned out to be that spiritual. Mullah`s kids do n’t necessitate to be mullahs and one do n’t believe i had to be like my father- I am a human being and Is have my restrictions, and i do perpetrate occasional sins- but one do state my prayers- for the remainder, i am all right with myself` ! … I might look like an antique, backdated adult female from outside, but i know how `fast “ I am from inside. I have a really different sense of `sin` in me, i do n’t see myself as a sinner- may be mad- but non a evildoer!

Sing love, love affair and pornography, Mukta narrates childhood-crush on a male cousin:

`I was `friends` with a male cousin, when we were immature, around the clip of standard five, when we were still allowed to play together. There was nil sexual, but I felt good when he was around me, and i felt physically and emotionally good when I spent clip with him… there was a intimation of love affair in it` , but one time they reached pre-teen, male childs and misss were separated from socializing, and he was `lost` from her life.

But it is her love for B, a married adult female with 2 grown up kids that Mukta finds resistless and trapped in. She has been in love with B for the last 12 old ages, and even a forced matrimony could non halt her from being attached to B. She left her hubby after 2 months of the nuptials, chiefly because the matrimony meant re-location, which meant remaining off from B. Mukta describes why she loves Bacilluss:

`I love her face, it is so beautiful, no 1 can be every bit beautiful as B`I love the manner she smells, i need to smell her before I go home every night-no one can be like B` ! everyone, including her female parent, thinks that Mukta`s compulsion with B is unnatural, and is a signifier of lunacy ( `what do you see in that old woman`s face` , `can she give you children`- are inquiries that her household frequently ask her ) . She had been given many `blessed amulets` and `prayers` to come back to `normal` life and to be free from B, but, of class, nil worked. Forced matrimony, and obligatory sex with hubby did non travel excessively good with Mukta and she hated kiping with her hubby. Added to this were the rural re-location and the rural-ness of her hubby in footings of dressing and household behavior, which was a hard thing to set to for urban Mukta.

Mukta says that she has ne’er had any sexual relation with B, as B does n’t O.K. of unnatural` sex or sexual desires, which can besides be termed as iniquitous. Mukta doesn`t know, how two adult females can hold a sexual relation, but she feels that the desire in her organic structure for B, can happen a manner to it! I am a really sexy adult female, I have a batch of sexual desire, and I know it about me. I want to hold sex and I want to fulfill my sexual demands… but I love this `wrong` person- a adult female and I do n’t cognize how two adult females can hold sex with each other. I know that I want B and I want to hold sex with her. I sometimes joke with B that, if I were a adult male, I would hold raped her! ` frequently Mukta slumbers in the same bad with B, particularly when B`s hubby is off for concern, but B keeps a pillow between the two, so that organic structures don`t touch: `I think, B does this because she knows how there can be sex between two adult females, and she thinks, I do n’t cognize about such possibilities` !

Mukta is like a `shadow` to B, on an mundane footing, and supports all her activities and to others, she appears to be a `side kick` to B, but Mukta sees herself like a `husband` to B, who takes attention of her, protect her, and she says, I sometimes wonder, if I were every bit rich as B`s hubby, would B so see go forthing him and come and remain with me, and she would non necessitate to hold a hubby… I could be her supplier hubby… ` and she hopes for the twenty-four hours ` … when B`s hubby would decease and her kids would turn up and go forth place, so B would hold no 1 but Mukta to trust on and they would populate together as two old women` ! Mukta understands the futility of her desire for a adult female, though she had no words available to her to depict her sexual orientation or individuality, however, she is cognizant of the fact that this same-sex desire is doing her a societal castaway, a adult female who is condemned and frequently pitied for traversing 30 and non being married and without kids.

`I sometimes, contemplate on perpetrating suicide- but what is the usage of such decease… am i a also-ran… what have i got from this relation… when people ask me, `what is your relation with B ; , i answer, i love her` , and everyone laughs at me! I have ne’er met or even heard of any other adult female, who loves another adult female, who feels for a adult female like Is do for B` !

What difference age, instruction, and urbanisation can do in footings of asseverating sexual desires and individualities, at least to some extends can be understood from the following two women`s narrative. Bani in her early 30s, and populating outside her ain town, settled in Dhaka, in respectable occupation and with fiscal freedom have found her won comfort and safety zone, within which she can pattern a life manner of her pick and non upset the surface. It is besides possible because of her educational background, her cognition of English ( which helps in utilizing constructs and words that are non in usage or normally used in Bangla ) ; and besides because of her ability to happen other adult females with similar sexual orientation, who works as a mention point, a theoretical account of possible life manner beyond heteronormativity. On the other manus, Payel, a immature miss in her early 20s, with small instruction, but entree to infinites and societal groups that are more unfastened with gender and sexual discourses- aid her to experiment with gender, and remain unfastened to all possibilities without being excessively restricted by dominant societal norms. Though Payel, still wants to conform to heterosexual dream of `happily married ever-after` class of life, she is non bound by the dream as such.


A Lecturer in a private university, in her mid 30s, was besides portion of the sapphic support group, but finally came out of that because of difference of sentiments. 4 old ages back, she started the first of all time research on adult females ‘s gender, particularly on adult females who desires adult females, but for some ground she ne’er completed it, and even though she is from the community, she told me ( 4 old ages back ) that she could pull off merely 3 interviews for her research. Born in a Buddhist household, she ne’er had an Orthodox up-bringing ; I was ne’er traditional truster in faith. And so, it ne’er created any quandary, struggle or anything. And after my induction into the left-of-center political relations after college yearss, gave me the critical tool to analyse religion. “

On her sexual orientation and same-sex attractive force and how she asserts it within the heteronormative societal models, Bani narrates:

“ the first clip I was attracted to any adult female, was my English instructor at school, I would woolgather of her often, and when she left the school, I was in hurting. But I ne’er found my attractive force to adult females as something unusual or eldritch. `Love` was, and has ever been a construct of inspiration. For a brief period in life, during high school yearss, I did worry about non acquiring love offers from male childs, but when I started acquiring attending from male childs, it was really clear to me that my attractive force to boys was limited to flirtation, and temporary- it was merely adult females, for who I had `heart-felt `love.`

I do non experience that I struggled hard to experience like a consecutive individual. My passion was systematically ever for the adult females and I fell in nonreversible love for rather a good figure of times with which I used to be rather occupied with all its hurting and pleasance! ! My captivation for male childs did non utilize to linger for long, but sometimes I would truly wish to hold the attending of those I truly admired. `

Since BANI is non from Dhaka, but has been populating in the metropolis, ab initio for higher instruction and now for occupation intent, she lives outside the usual `family` supervising and close propinquity that is about compulsory for individual adult females. She has had live-in relationship with other adult females in Dhaka, an agreement that made usage of homo-sociability that can camouflage homo-sexuality. She gives recognition to her higher instruction and pick of a `respectable` calling in instruction, that has made relations and household more cautious of interfering with her personal lives:

`I spent a whole four old ages with my former spouse, but we were three together. The other friend was the closest friend of my spouse and we all three became friends. Even, after the matrimony of that spouse, I still am remaining with that friend in the same level. We three used to portion everything, all disbursals. … Sing the societal milieus, we did non confront inquiries as cipher knew about our relationship except with whom we confided in. … the fact that I am `shomo-premi` , woman-loving-woman, is non disclosed to excessively many people, and that is why, I do non confront much favoritism and adversity in societal life. But I know for fact, that if my sexual orientation becomes public, particularly in my work topographic point, it will decidedly hold a negative impact on my calling. I guess, i will hold to vacate from my occupation to salvage reputability. I do non see or wish to be seeable to the society as a sapphic, because the effects are desperate and the force per unit area would be excessively much to manage. During university yearss, when I used to populate in inn, my relationship with my girlfriend ( who besides was a occupant in that inn ) somehow came out to some other misss and to salvage ourselves from shame and ejection from the abode ( which had happened to other misss before ) , we both had to deny our relationship. This changeless denials and lying to others is a beginning of hurting and choler in life. ‘


Aged 20, completed high school and a bead out from college. She left place last twelvemonth, and started populating on her ain, sharing a room with another miss. Payel told me that she likes being sexual, she enjoys snoging and caressing, but she is yet to hold sex with a adult male, as she is waiting for her ‘prince capturing ‘ . it is, harmonizing to her, wise to wait for another few old ages for that prince charming, otherwise, losing virginity to anyone and so instantly after that meeting the adult male of her life would be black! But after a few old ages, she would merely ‘jump ‘ into the field of sex, and travel for it! But she besides admits that she has had sex with adult females and that she enjoys it and love could go on with anyone- adult male or a adult female. She narrates her gender:

`I like both work forces and women- for me the individual is of import, one can be attracted to both. Honestly talking, I have had sex with a girlfriend. I was really affectionate of her- she was my best friend, and we loved being sexual with each other- like, touching chests, snoging, taking bloomerss, underwear… you know, all of it- like holding sex- and I like it really much! … even though Is have slept with adult females, and I have done many other sexual Acts of the Apostless, but I have non had sex with a adult male yet, but i truly want to hold sex with a man- I have the impulse, and there are many offers and temptations- about on a day-to-day footing, but someway I have non done it yet. I guess, I hope to run into `the adult male, the One` , the love of my life- who i can acquire married to, who would be fine-looking and loving, and will hold eyes merely for me… I will wait for this adult male, for the following 2 or 3 old ages, so, I will kip with everyone! By the manner, I don`t mind if this `love of my life` is a woman- it is the individual that matters- a individual who can take attention of me, maintain me good, love me and will non halt me from rolling about Parkss, and roads and my favorite hang-outs… there will be no via media on that! I don`t think, i can happen such love!

Section 4: The ‘Invisible ‘ adult females and their unseeable `identities ‘

Identities, particularly sexual individualities can be slippery, for persons who inhabit in societal constructions that either stigmatize or demonise anyone who appears to be aberrant, and is seen as a failure or in expert to populate within heteronormative social boundaries. This is a ground why many adult females refuse to take a `label` themselves. Nahar, a 45 twelvemonth old Lawyer, a semi-outed sapphic adult female ( within friends and close circles ) says, `I am non peculiarly excessively lament on being introduced as a sapphic adult female. I mean, i have i am proud of my sexual orientation and individuality, but why should it be THE individuality, or point of debut! Make consecutive people get introduced as ` heterosexual` person! ` most adult females i talked to, expressed a desire to populate a more unfastened life, to hold the socio-political and legal right to populate a life of personal pick, but they besides understand that it is a wish that is far from being fulfilled in close hereafter. Homophobia is strong, and women`s same-sex relationships do n’t have in public discourse, non even every bit much as male homosexualism and transgender gender. Flora says that maintaining oneself under the radio detection and ranging is the best scheme for the minute and it is the lone manner to seek to populate a life harmonizing to one`s pick, every bit much as possible: `In Bangladesh, you can be yourself, every bit long as you don`t stir the system- they will allow you be. ` Her effort to hold her support group for women-loving-women registered and more formalised is ever faced with opposition from its ain members. The deficiency of younger adult females interested in activism for sexual rights for non-heterosexual adult females, is something that concerns senior members like Parveen and Flora. Interestingly, the difference between the homosexual and sapphic community in Dhaka, Bangladesh is that, in footings of activism, in homosexual community it is the younger, educated urban work forces who want to do their issues more public and want to get down a motion. They are the 1 who are more outed than the others. On the contrary, in the sapphic group, it is the senior members who are the public face of the groups, and the younger 1s are non merely closeted but besides loath and less confident in brand this a motion for their right to populate a life full of picks. What is the ground? Flora in treatment with me agrees that because in our society, adult females of a peculiar matured age ( when she has passed by the marital-reproductive age, of any societal obligatory functions ) , people truly do n’t care much about what they do. This place is more powered by a adult female ‘s instruction, professional and economic success or assurance. Therefore, adult females past 50 are the 1s who lead this group. On the contrary, the younger 1s are mpre occupied with their personal lives ( harmonizing to Parveen they are more than happy or satisfied of they could happen a safe corner to populate with their girlfriends and live an undisturbed life…they want nil more than this ) . Younger 1s lack in assurance even if they have the instruction and/or the money: the whole apprehension of ‘rights ‘ is non clear or strong to them.

Bani explain why she, for illustration, is non into activism or in LGBT motion:

I am non much sanguine sufficiency of the hereafter of LGBT activism because of the deficiency of democratic norms in the cloth of this state. Still, faith is a immense political factor here and our politicians are non sincere and honest plenty to confront it. But, one of the most positive fact that researches are underway from the rights position. The earlier battle of gender issues tied with HIV-AIDS matrix opened some manner for speaking about gender. But it can non be confined to it for its ain release. All the LGBT groups, apart from transgender community are moving as the safe infinites for run intoing chiefly. In footings of serious activism, these groups are yet to take the interest, but the deficiency that I feel is a vivacious political duologue, the interconnectednesss that it will do with the political political orientation without which it can non prolong a strong terms. And we besides must be cognizant the category issue, that Gay and sapphic groups in Bangladesh is enduring from elitism sometimes due to its category prejudice and besides due to the deficiency of the political vision. In fact, we are in a nascent phase, the phase where we are documenting who these people are, how they lead their life. The existent activism demands to organize within this group. I besides do n’t anticipate more from these groups as I know the hazard involved with it. Nowadays, I m rather confounded to portion it in public forum, so those who are endeavoring, they should be given the recognition which they deserve but it would be much more reinforced if the skylines get much more widened, if they remain cautious about the booby traps of individuality political relations.

Whether or non adult females are willing or experience ready to speak about gender and take on sexual rights motion within the approaching LGBT motion in Bangladesh, one thing is for certain, that each have and are in the pr