2017 Winner: The Hijra Community of Bangladesh

Project Information
The Hijra Community of Bangladesh
Feminist Studies: FMST-194T
Bangladesh is where my cultural roots lie, as I identify as Bangladeshi and speak the Bengali language. However, I was born in the United States, so most of the information that I have heard about Bangladesh has been through my family, predominantly through oral history. One story that I have always kept in mind is my parents’ experience with the hijra community. There is a legend that when your child is born and hijras dance with them, they are forever blessed and will live a full and complete life with lots of good luck. This is what they did to my older brother in a village near Kaliganj, Bangladesh almost thirty years ago. Although I have not personally experienced this, the power of story telling has allowed me to be a part of it.
In this paper I have focused on how the hijra community developed, and how their lives are affected by political, social, and economic marginalization, despite being recognized as the official third gender of Bangladesh. In this essay I look specifically at how Bangladesh is structured politically, economically, and culturally. In addition, I examine the role of Islam and how hijras celebrate their spirituality, especially since Islam is recognized as the official religion of Bangladesh. My goal for this paper is to expose how the hijra community established itself as a form of survival and resistance, and how the battle for their rights continue as they fight for visibility. Despite being marginalized politically, economically, and socially hijras have created strong bonds amongst themselves and have resisted their “outcast” position through their own communities.
  • Mariel Paul (Oakes)