Not leaving anyone behind – photo-book ”Hijra Lives in Bangladesh”

Sep 28, 2017

More than half of the third gender population experience violence, discrimination and abandonment or sexual assault and abuse at early age in their natural families. This was said today at a panel discussion following a launch of a photo-book ”Leaving no one behind: Hijra Lives in Bangladesh”, in BICC, Dhaka.

Members of the third gender community, widely known as Hijras, face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law, and any bureaucracy that is unable to place them into male or female gender categories. Most of them have very few employment opportunities. Many are forced to confine themselves to earn a living from performing at ceremonies, begging or engaging in sex work. Violence against Hijras is often brutal.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bangladesh and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have jointly presented today a coffee-table-style photo-book that takes us into everyday life of third gender persons across Bangladesh. And while going through pages of this book gives us an insight of where and how Hijras live, it also shows us the hardships of their lives - inability to find decent employment, uneasy access to healthcare and education, poor housing opportunities and constant discrimination.

Jhunjhuni from Dhaka, one of the third gender representatives, was quoted in the book: “We were born in our mother’s womb just like you. Then, is being a Hijra our crime?”.

While it is encouraging that the Government of Bangladesh legally recognised Hijra as the third gender, which is a basic condition to mainstream this community in all aspects of the society, and has created opportunities for Hijras to get government employment, there are still pending issues and long way to go.

“This book will go a long way in raising awareness and bring up on wider agenda the issues that third gender people are facing. Responsibility of the National Human Rights Commission is to ensure human rights are respected for all, regardless of their gender. NHRC and UNDP will continue taking initiatives in this direction,” said Nazrul Islam, full time member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The interventions to support third gender persons should start very early, not wait to provide help when they are adults, but work with them when they are young. Help them to complete their education, sensitize parents, teachers and school mates, support them to choose and pursue any career path they desire. “If Bangladesh were to do this successfully, it would be another first achievement for this country under SDGs. The essence of SDGs is to leave no one behind,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, UNDP Bangladesh Country Director.

The photo-book ”Hijra Lives in Bangladesh”, funded by UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific (RBAP) Innovation Fund, has been developed based on a research done in Hijra communities in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi. A group of five student researchers and student photographers, collaborated with about 40 third gender persons and gathered their life stories, quotes and photographs. Based on the findings of the research, the content of the book has been designed using a life-cycle approach highlighting Hijra's early years, present time and future hopes and aspirations.

The PDF version of the photo-book can be downloaded from the following link:

Short film about the lives of third gender persons in Bangladesh can be viewed here

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. All human rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.

The Human Rights Programme (HRP), is a joint initiative of UNDP and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in partnership with the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), aiming to promote a culture of respecting human rights and inclusiveness in Bangladesh. Within this framework, protecting and upholding dignity among all population segments, including advocating for the rights of Hijras, is one of the goals of the programme

Contact information

Dejan Drobnjak, UNDP Bangladesh, Communications Management Officer,

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