Bangladesh’s first trans school ignites hope for acceptance

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01/21/2021

Riya was given away by her parents when she was five after a short spell at school where she was bullied for being different. Unable to accept that Riya is a hijra, a transgender or an intersex person, her parents abandoned her to a group whose primary means of survival was begging and sex work. In conservative, Muslim Bangladesh, hijras exist on the fringe of society. But thanks to the vision of a cleric and funding from an army officer, the Dawatul Quran Third Sex Madrassa opened in November, for once offering Bangladesh’s hijra community an education that they had never had access to and the first step toward respectability. Some 26 years after she was forced out of school, Riya recently found herself in a room with 20 others like herself, reciting Quranic verses. The room, at the top of a three-story building in the impoverished neighborhood of Kamrangir Char, was abuzz with the sounds of students learning.

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