Bangladeshâs notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) raided a gathering in Dhaka on May 19, arrested 28 men, paraded them in front of the media while saying they were gay, and accused them of drug possession. Apparently tipped off by a resident near the venue where the group had gathered regularly in recent months, RAB officers abused their authority to humiliate the men a âflagrant privacy rights violation for an already-vulnerable minority.
While the government has taken some steps â like recognizing a legal third gender category âsexual and gender minorities in Bangladesh are under constant pressure. âCarnal intercourse against the order of natureâ carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In 2015, a Bangladeshi LGBT rights organization said that âvisibility can be life-threatening.â Even discreet activism can attract unwanted attention, which is made even riskier as the authorities have repeatedly failed to stand up for freedom of expression. The brutal murders of two leading, visible Bangladeshi gay rights activists a year ago foregrounded the extreme vulnerability of the entire community.
Bangladeshâs National Human Rights Commission has documented physical and sexual assaults on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people by the police. At a United Nations review, the government accepted a recommendation to enhance police training around serving women and children, but rejected a call to protect LGBT people, saying âsexual orientation is not an issue in Bangladesh.â
RAB, an elite counter-terrorism unit that has operated since…