Bangladesh has arrested 29 people from an LGBT gathering here, a rare crackdown on gays in the conservative Muslim-majority country where homosexuality is prohibited, officials said today.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite police unit that made the arrests, said the suspects, mostly students aged between 20-30 years, had travelled from across the country and were picked up in the raid yesterday.
"We arrested them along with drugs as they were partying at a community centre after midnight yesterday," a RAB official familiar with the incident told PTI.
RAB-10's duty officer Abdur Rashid said they were arrested as homosexuality was prohibited under law in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh and they carried out the raids responding to complaints by residents in the neighbourhood.
"We, however, did not find them involved in sexual activities while they were partying. But we found contraband sex stimulating drugs from them," the official said.
"We planned to accuse them under drug-related laws since they were not instantly found to be engaged in unnatural sexual activities at the scene," he said.
Bangladesh's penal code prescribes as high as life imprisonment for homosexuality describing it as "unnatural offence" and such activities are socially castigated.
"Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 2 [imprisonment] for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine," the law reads.
Homosexual rights activists who called LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) rights campaigners or sexual minorities are often subjected to assaults.
Gays and lesbians in Bangladesh frequently suffer discrimination and other rights abuses and many are forced to hide their sexual identity and live double lives for fear of reprisals.
One of them, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh's only LGBT magazine 'Roopbaan', was hacked to death at his Dhaka home along with a friend on April 25, last year in an attack later claimed by militant Ansar al-Islam, a group said to be inclined to al-Qaeda.
Many prominent homosexual activists have since fled the country after several of them received death threats.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)