MSM face great disapproval in Bangladesh because of their sexual practice. There are an estimated 40-150,000 MSM in the country who face stigma and neglect. They tend to drop out of education because of teasing and are deprived of health services, job opportunities and social justice.
Shahidul Islam is 30 and lives in a semi urban area of Dakar, working as a hotel manager. He tells his story and how he came to be involved in HASAB.
“I was totally isolated from my family for 15 years because of my high risk behaviour. In my childhood one of the senior fellows abused me sexually and day by day it increased. There was no social or family support that would allow me to complain so I got used to the circumstances.
“I was called “myggha” (lady) because of my feminine character. My classmate and other school boys teased me. I felt uncomfortable to go to school and as a result I stopped going. My father and other family members did not like me and told me to leave their house and never use their identity.
“I moved from place to place seeking clients to earn money. I used to engage in unsafe sex as I wasn’t aware of the consequences and several times I suffered with complicated sexually transmitted infections.
“There was no medical support to cure me and I had no way in which I could raise my voice to protect my rights. I experienced physical and sexual harassment by police and thugs.
“I was frustrated and depressed. One day I shared my situation with one of my friends. He arranged a job at one hotel for me on condition that if the hotel manager and others wanted me for sex work I must accept. I finally agreed to do the job.
“Being a hotel boy I started a new life. Sometimes I had to have sex for no money and the monthly wages were nothing like what I could get paid for sex work. Sometimes I was paid less compared with other hotel boys.
“HASAB were working with the MSM community and I become involved with one of their projects. Through this project I was taught about human rights, prevention of HIV and counselling on to how to avoid high risk behaviour and make myself safer. The result was a daily increase in my level of confidence.
“Getting involved with the project I started to educate my clients and partners on practicing safe sex. Now I’m a peer educator for my community.
“The project has provided support for me to reintegrate with my family and thanks to the family counselling the stigma and discrimination has reduced. Now I get a full salary thanks to the stigma and human rights sensitisation meeting held with my employers which was organised by this project.
“I am now respected because of my peer educator role. I can talk about the rights of MSM with NGOs and government representatives. I often am a spokesperson for the MSM community, advocating on their behalf. As a result of my leadership qualities the hotel owner promoted me to hotel manager.
“It is essential to continue these projects until all stigma and discrimination is eliminated towards the MSM community. This HASAB project has been the turning point of my life.”
The project has provided support for me to reintegrate with my family