Ahmed is a participant in New York City’s VII Photo Agency Mentor program and his work was recently exhibited at the Dhaka Art Summit. We reached out to him through email to find out more about Inner Face.
“It has been a long journey. It took me a year before I started to photograph. I had to gain their trust. They have never been photographed before in the context of homosexuality,” said Ahmed when asked about his subjects seeming at ease in his photographs
It’s important to realize that we are all human beings. No matter what our sexual orientation is. What’s more important is you need to be a better human being. Most people find that to be the hardest, he said.
In Bangladesh, any discussion around sex and sexuality is taboo. It is a family-oriented, moderate, Muslim society with strong economic class structure. The sporadic discussions online have been mostly negative, with people calling homosexuality a sin, a psychological disorder, or just perverted behavior, reports asiasociety.org.
However, there is a pocket of tolerance and acceptance depending on the social class. The human rights movement and the development sector are increasingly supportive of LGBT rights. The government, specifically the Health Ministry, has extensive HIV/AIDS policy that includes Men having Sex with Men (MSM).
There are also several NGOs working with MSMs and the Hijra comunity, but there is no formal organization working for the LGBT community.
Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by law in Bangladesh. Section 377 of the country’s Penal Code is a memento left behind by the British colonial authorities that “criminalizes anal sex between men and other homosexual acts.”
The law, or some model of it, is still in effect in over a dozen former British colonies. Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong, and New Zealand are among the few that have repealed it.
In the past year, LGBT rights in Bangladesh have made the news after the government rejected a recommendation by the United Nations Population Fund to abolish the laws outlawing homosexuality.
Supporters of the LGBT community, such as the Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, have faced a backlash from the nation’s Islamic groups. But this conversation only seems to be gathering more traction and Ahmed’s photos are a powerful tool for shedding light on a community that currently lives in fear of retribution.
The Section 377law has never been implemented but is regularly used to harass LGBT people.