Bangladesh on Sunday announced it will soon enable transgender people to inherit property from their families, the latest effort to give the minority group more rights in the conservative Muslim-majority nation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a cabinet meeting this week that new inheritance laws for transgender people were being drafted.
The bill has yet to be proposed in parliament but is expected to comfortably pass the legislative body.
“We’re trying to frame a legislation in accordance with the Islamic sharia law and our constitution which will ensure the property rights for a transgender family member,” Law Minister Anisul Huq told AFP.
While officially secular, the country of 168 million people still follows religious laws on property legislation, with transgender people mostly barred from inheriting estates when parents die.
Bangladesh has allowed transgender people, who number around 1.5 million, to identify as a separate gender since 2013.
Known as hijra, it is an umbrella term referring to someone who is born male but does not refer to themselves as a man or woman
Last year they were allowed to register to vote as a third gender. Earlier this month, the South Asian country opened its first Islamic school for transgender Muslims.
But the LGBTQI community still faces widespread discrimination, with a colonial-era law in place that punishes gay sex by prison terms, though enforcement is rare.
Rights activists welcomed the move but were sceptical about whether the law would be enforceable with many families still rejecting their transgender offspring.
“As an activist, I am happy the issue is getting focus. But it’s not just a matter of legislation, rather it requires a change in the entire society,” said Ananya Banik, 40, who heads transgender rights group Sada Kalo.
Banik said she came out as transgender when she was 16.
“I had to leave my family because of the pressure they received from other families when I was growing up. And I’m not alone, there are hundreds of thousands of members in our community who had to leave their families behind,” Banik, who prefers to be called she, added.
She said many transgenders leave their homes at a young age, often driven away from family members, and could face violence if they return to claim their inheritances.
Rights groups also fear a backlash from religious hardliners.
In 2015 extremists hacked to death a leading gay activist and editor of an LGBTQI magazine, while other prominent homosexuals have since fled the country. (Source: CNA)