Monday was a special day for 1.5 million transgender people in Bangladesh where most of them face rampant discrimination, violence and are forced to lead impoverished life of beggars.
Thousands of them kept their eyes glued to TV screens as South Asian country’s first transgender news presenter Tashnuva Anan Shishir made her debut which coincided with International Women’s Day.
She could not hold tears and soon broke down in tears but only after her word-perfect debut was beamed to the nation and the cameras went off.
Shishir delivered the three-minute news bulletin on the private Boishakhi TV much to the cheer of people of her community.
Tashnuva, who was born as Kamal Hossain Shishir, discovered in her early teens that she was trapped in a man’s body. She said she was sexually assaulted and bullied for years.
‘At times, I was tormented so much that I had attempted suicide four times. My father stopped talking to me for years and it was so painful,’ said Shishir, 29.
She further said she had to leave home as she couldn’t stand the neighbours telling her father about how she should act or walk in a masculine way.
Tashnuva fled her home to live a life of seclusion in the capital Dhaka, and later she shifted to central city of Narayanganj.
After taking hormone therapy, she took jobs working for charities and acted in theatres.
She became the first transgender person to study for a master’s in public health at the James P Grant School of Public Health in Dhaka.
A British-era law punishes gay sex with prison in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh government allowed trans people to be identified as a separate gender. In 2018, they were allowed to register to vote as a third gender.
Boishakhi TV spokesman Julfikar Ali Manik said the channel took the risk to give Shishir a chance to shine though there was possibility of a backlash from some viewers in the Muslim-majority country.
Tashnuva paid her gratitude towards Boishakhi TV which was ‘brave’ enough to allow her to participate at the event though no other channel agreed to so.
“I do not want transgender like me to lead a miserable life. All of them have rights to lead dignified lives,” she said.