Homosexuality is a crime in the conservative Muslim-majority nation with jails sentences for life, although this is seldom put into place. However, the LGBTI community keeps a low profile with many gays, lesbians and transpersons living ‘in the closet.’
The country’s largest gay rights group, the Boys of Bangladesh, said it hoped to spread the message that people should be free to choose who they loved.
The group organised the launch of the character Dhee, the Bengali word for intellect or wisdom.
“By creating Dhee, we want to shape perception of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, because we should be free to choose whom to love,” Mehnaz Khan, one of the four content developers of the comic, said.
“It’s about carrying the message to all.”
Dhee will feature in a comic to be handed out at gay rights seminars and other events.
It tells the story of a girl who is attracted to other girls and falls in love.
Facing intense pressure to conform, Dhee mulls over her enormous challenges and asks readers whether she should consider suicide, marry a man to please her family, flee the country or stay and follow her heart.
Several hundred people attended the launch at the British Council in Dhaka, although entry was carefully scrutinised in case of protests by conservative hardliners.
“We hope to take such events outdoors next time as we don’t want to live our lives indoors and in secret,” prominent social activist Khushi Kabir said.
The LGBTI community in Bangladesh has seen more and more countries legalize same-sex relationships and small countries like Ireland adopt same-sex marriages.
In recent years, Bangladesh’s young gay men have become increasingly assertive of their rights and have held low-key pride marches at the last two Bengali new year festivals.
In 2014, the first magazine in the country for homosexuals was launched with little opposition.