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Transgender candidate Anwara Islam Rani upsets Sheikh Hasina Awami League’s victory in Bangladesh elections

Bangladesh general election 2024: Amid Bangladesh’s lopsided elections, 31-year-old transgender candidate Anwara Islam Rani is optimistic about pulling off an upset victory that could establish her as a rare opposition voice in the country’s parliament. The elections are to be held on Sunday and the queen has won significant support by attracting hundreds of people to her rallies since the campaign began last month, news agency AFP reported.

Speaking to AFP late on Friday, the Queen exuded confidence, saying, “I have received an incredibly positive response from voters. Victory is possible if the voting is free and fair and people can cast their vote in a peaceful environment.”

However, the election has faced controversy as dozens of opposition parties boycotted it citing fairness concerns. They argue that the electoral process may reflect widespread irregularities seen in previous elections, which led to victory for Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, AFP reports.

The ruling Awami League has notably refrained from fielding candidates in the Queen’s constituency and some other seats, aiming to avoid treating the next Parliament as a one-party institution. As an independent candidate, Rani is pitted against GM Quader, a former aviation minister and party leader who has long-standing ties with the current government.

The Queen, who is known for her activism and organizational work for transgender rights campaigns, acknowledged the support she received from a small but dedicated group of supporters who helped platform rallies and canvass voters. Despite being born into a conservative family in the majority Muslim nation, he highlighted his family’s support for his campaign, which primarily focuses on advocating for better health care and employment opportunities, the report said.

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Bangladesh general election: Queen claims ‘abusive campaign’ by rival

Addressing the challenges faced during her candidacy, Queen claimed that a “smear campaign” was launched by her opponent to influence public opinion. “My opponent attempted to influence public opinion by claiming that electing a transgender MP would damage Rangpur’s reputation nationally and internationally,” he commented, as quoted by AFP.

In Bangladesh’s northern city of Rangpur, Rani received major support for her candidacy, overcoming hurdles posed by the alleged smear campaign. According to the report, Latifur Rahman, a voter from Rani’s constituency, commented, “Anwara’s courage gives us hope.” “He is not just a candidate for us; he is a symbol of the fight for respect and equality as well as the fight for an inclusive society.”

Transgender women, known as “Hijra” in the Asian subcontinent, have seen an increase in legal recognition in Bangladesh over the past decade, being officially recognized as a third gender. Despite this progress, they continue to grapple with challenges including a lack of property and marriage rights, and discrimination in employment, AFP reports.

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