Bangladesh opens first Islamic school for transgender

A religious charity has opened the first school for transgenders in Dhaka, Bangladesh, offering hope for education for a community which is known to live in dismal poverty.

Until now, there has been no school exclusively for transgenders in Bangladesh. School officials, local councillors and transgender community leaders attended the opening day at the Dawatul Koran Third Sex Madrassa, which is near Lohar Bridge in the Kamrangirchar area of Dhaka. The classes in the three-storey building began on Saturday.

Funding for the school comes from a foundation set up with money left by the late Ahmad Ferdous Bari Chowdhury, a businessman who wanted to educate the transgender community.

Excluded by their families, transgenders are often banished from their homes at a young age. With no formal education, many are forced into begging and sex work.

More than 150 students will be able to read the Koran and the basic principles of Islam, and subjects like Bengali, English, maths free of charge at the privately-funded seminary, or madrassa, in Dhaka.

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According to the Bangladesh government estimates, there are about 10,000 transgenders in Bangladesh. However, rights groups state that the figure could be as high as 1.5 million in the country of more than 160 million people.

A school official told media persons that there would be no age limit at the school.

Expressing her happiness, Sona Solani, 30, a student at the school said, she is thrilled as this school is a ‘beacon of hope’ for the Trans community. She added that their community is always looked down upon. They are not accepted anywhere, not even in their own house. She wants to show the society that they can stand as equals and prove that they are not limited to begging, and that their lives are much bigger than that.

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