Authorities in Bangladesh have arrested 27 men in a crackdown on homosexuality, a criminal offense in the Muslim-majority country, and plan to charge them with drug possession, an official tells the AP. A commander of the elite police unit that made the arrests says the suspects, mostly students aged 20-30 years, had traveled from across the country and were picked up in a raid on a community center at Keraniganj, outside the nation’s capital, early Friday. Zahangir Hossain Matobbar says they recovered illegal drugs and condoms in their possession and plan to charge them with drug offenses and not homosexuality because they were detained before they engaged in sex.
“We’ve arrested 27 people for homosexuality,” one major is quoted as saying in the Times of India. The agency also arrested the owner of the community center where the suspects used to gather every two months and stay overnight for partying. Homosexuality is a crime in Bangladesh under a law dating back to the British colonial rule. The law is rarely enforced but many gays and lesbians still live double lives to avoid reprisals. Last year, suspected militants killed a leading LGBT activist and his friend in Dhaka. The 35-year-old Xulhaz Mannan, a USAID official, was hacked to death at his home. He had founded the country’s only LGBT magazine and was a leading organizer of gays. Since then, many gays and lesbians have left the country after they received death threats.