Transgender youth and the right to access public washrooms | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 12, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:53 AM, March 12, 2021

SPOTLIGHT

Transgender youth and the right to access public washrooms

Although the practice of open defecation was declared 0 percent in Bangladesh in 2017, 22-year-old *Nishita Nisha, a member of the third gender community in Dhaka, said that she is still sometimes forced to defecate in parks, footpaths or alleys.

Like many others of her community, Nishita spends most of her time in the day extorting money from commuters or shopkeepers or performing "Badhaai", a custom of conferring blessings on a newborn by singing and dancing.

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However, they are hardly allowed in any residential restrooms or sometimes, even in public toilets.

"Once I approached a watchman of a house in Mirpur to allow me to use their toilet. He chased me out as if I was an animal. When I yelled back, he was going to beat me," said Ishita.

"People in-charge of public toilets are often reluctant to let us in, as other people scold them for allowing us. Besides, when we use the female washrooms, many feel scared of us, as if we are going to attack them. We face bullying and harassment in the male washrooms."

While the third gender was recognised by the government in 2013, transgender people continue to face discrimination in every aspect of their lives, including accessing healthcare services, educationsafe living spaces, public transportation,and constitutional rights. 

Although adequate and equitable sanitationwith special attention to the needs of women and those in vulnerable situations, is closely related with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, Bangladesh still has a long way to go in terms of transgender people's right to sanitation.

Md Moshiur Rahman, Policy and Advocacy Manager of Bandhu Social Welfare Society, an organisation that works on the rights of sexual minorities, said that transgender people face more challenges when they enter formal workplaces. Bandhu Social Welfare Society has a separate toilet for transgender individuals in their office.

"We have aproached the city corporations, the social welfare department of the government and some other ministries to sensitisethem to the challenges of transgender people. However, we are not seeing any progress," added Rahman.

Ivan Ahmed Kotha, President of Sacheton Shilpi Sangha, an organisation working for the rights of the third gender community, said that in the context of Bangladesh, a separate washroom for transgender people is a demand of the time.

"Otherwise, there must be a clear message in toilets regarding gender-segregation. If we are to use the female washroom, it must be clearly mentioned there so that people cannot make us feel ostracised," she said.

Samiul Alim Shammi, a young transgender woman, owns a beauty salon named Uttaran in Savar. She demanded separate washrooms for transgender people to avoid harassment and discrimination. "We need to make decent toilets accessible to everyone — irrespective of their age, gender identity or social status," she said.

However, although both city corporations in Dhaka work for establishing public toilets, they have no plans as of now to include aspace for transgender people in public toilets.

Dhaka North City Corporation's Executive Engineer Abul Kashem said that he is unaware of the discrimination transgender people face, and assured that he will look into the issue.

*Name has been changed for privacy.

 

The author is a reporter at The Daily Star. Write to her at nilima.jahan@thedailystar.net.

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