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We cannot support oppression

Soon after the spreading out of the news, that Bangladesh has sided with twelve other member states,
many of which are considered as oppressive regimes including Donald Trums America, to vote against
an UN resolution condemning capital punishment for homosexuality, I have received a call from Peter
Knibbs, a human rights activist friend of mine.

Peter was among one of those persons, who just a few weeks ago were overwhelmingly showering
Bangladesh and our Prime minister Seikh Hasina with compliments and gratituded for the compassion
and leadership during Rohingya crisis.

Apparently, for valid reasons not this time. But, however more than disgrace, he was disappointed and
in disbelief, that how quick Bangladesh was to ruin her hard-earned reputation of lighthouse of
humanity to an oppressor.

He had a very rational point. What Bangladesh have gained by appearing on every major media of the
world leveled as a country supportive to oppression?

Surely, Bangladesh could have done better, given that the option of refraining from voting is always
there open for consideration when international diplomacy takes a critical turn.

But being a typical Bangladeshi heterosexual man, my immediate defensive and stereotype response
was to point out, that in regards to policy and law Bangladesh government is obliged to take into
consideration the mindset of the citizens it governs.

And if it is to be believed, that policies are the reflections of the perceptions of the stakeholders of the
society, governments cannot just ignore the overwhelming opinion of the people they are elected by.

Firm belief on universal code of human rights has long been hailed by both of us as the ground of our
mutual admiration, therefore, we both knew that I was wrong. And he was prompt in pointing out, that I
was speaking nonsense.

A person who really believed in the concept of fairness in accordance with the universally accepted code
of human rights, that equality of all human being regardless of how they live or whom they proclaim
love to, in the modern era is a universally accepted human rights practice, would certainly believe that
even such policies are widely backed by the community, they are wrong in terms of fairness.

While accepting, the opinion of a society is indeed a crucial consideration, and at a time difficult to
ignore in democracy, it was never to be the only consideration, especially when it involves human life
and an individuals right to live with dignity.

Because policies and provisions are not only shaped by the values of the society, but also in many cases
help to shape a society for good.

The negative image of Bangladesh, that was portrayed in international media since this voting has taken
place rings an alarm bell, that it is high time for Bangladesh to reconsider its policy position and legal
provisions, by which I mean section 377 of the penal code, in relation to the rights of the homosexual
community of the country, that, whether we accept or not, exists.
Being a responsible member of the global community, it is in our interest to understand, that legal
protection of rights and equality cannot rest at the whim of populist sentiment.

India, a country that has almost identical legal provisions, culture, and society as ours can serve as an
example for us in this regard.

In the landmark verdict in relation to LGBT rights the Supreme court of India directed, Discrimination
against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth
of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be
protected on an even platform.

This is about modernization, and becoming a more accepting society.

Will a democratic society, supported by a constitution which enshrines all the virtues of equality,
fairness, and progression such as ours ever think of policies and laws that discriminate among people on
the basis of minor in number, whether it is gender, race, or religion?

Then why should it be different for individuals of a sexual minority?

Nur E Emroz Alam Tonoy

Blogger