“Issh lal lipstick, rastar meye shajte chaccho naki?”
“Tumi radhte parona, jamaike khawaba ta ki?"
There are different ways in which the term "gender" is interpreted, often confused with concepts around feminism or women empowerment. The simplest way of explaining gender might be that, while "sex" refers to one's biological being, "gender" is socially, culturally and contextually constructed. Modernists symbolise gender as being fluid-a state of being that is in transition, and anything but fixed. However, in societies by and large, gender is used to explain what it means to be a woman, or a man (concepts around femininity and masculinity), to define their roles, that ultimately gives rise to stereotypes, prejudices and gender-based notions.
Bonhishkha is a non-profit, voluntary Bangladeshi organisation that creates a platform where the youth can have dialogues about gender and sexuality, topics that are hush-hush in the context of Bangladesh. Tasaffy Hossain, Founder of Bonhishikha says, “It urges the youth to share their stories, stereotypes and prejudices that constrict them and to unlearn gender in the process”. Based on Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, Bonhishikha produced its first show “It's a SHE Thing” in the year 2015 that featured stories around abuse and everyday violence that urban women in Dhaka face and how they overcome these challenges. In 2016, a second production titled “Men don't TALK” was put to stage, that demonstrated issues around masculinity, and how it is to grow up to be a “man” in urban Dhaka. Starting from stories on domestic violence, to sex workers, social adherence and LGBT rights, the productions feature multiple narratives, in its story-telling styled stage performances. This year, for the first time, "It's a SHE Thing" was held in Bangla, titled
In the future, the organisation aims to bring people together through different platforms, facilitate discussions, raise awareness, and promote an impetus for positive change and improvement – towards a society in which who you look like, how you are treated and what role you play is not determined by the sex organ that you were born with.
The author is the Coordinator of Bonhishikha.