ALMOST 30 people have been arrested on suspicion of drug crimes after Bangladeshi police raided a gathering of gay men at a community centre on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.
The group were found with marijuana and methamphetamine as well as condoms and lubricant, however were not engaged in sexual activity at the time of the raid and thus were not charged with homosexuality reported the New York Times.
Bangladesh is a highly conservative country, where same-sex sexual activity is considered an “unnatural offence” akin to bestiality and is punishable by life imprisonment.
“Yesterday when we arrested them, they did not complete the homosexuality act,” said police commander Jahangir Hossain Matubbar, “[but] they were preparing for that.”
Although Bangladesh’s draconian anti-LGBT laws are rarely enforced, there are also strong societal backlash against “out” homosexuals who are highly vulnerable to abuse, persecution and violence.
— GSN (@gaystarnews) May 16, 2017
Last year, Al Qaeda-linked militants hacked Bangladesh’s most prominent gay rights activist to death.
The editor of the country’s first and only gay rights magazine, Xulhaz Mannan, who also worked for USAID, was murdered by militants from the radical Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team in April 2016.
Activists, bloggers and religious liberals have been increasingly targeted by extremists in recent years, with Bangladesh’s government under pressure from the international community to bring those responsible to justice.
Shabash Bangladesh police. You must have run out of criminals that you can't or won't arrest, now you seek out vulnerable people. https://t.co/Th3Q6QVG4Y
— Mahmud Rahman (@Mahmud_writer) May 19, 2017
In 2013, Bangladeshi newspaper The Dhaka Tribune published an editorial that urged the government to decriminalise homosexuality.
“Everyone has the right to live his or her life without fear, and nothing is gained by making people a target for persecution,” it said.