Bangladesh to Give Tax Breaks to Companies Hiring Transgender Workers

Bangladesh's finance minister announced at the National Parliament on Thursday that companies would be offered tax breaks for hiring transgender people, which is the latest in a series of measures in recent years to support and protect trans people in the majority-Muslim conservative country.

Finance Minister A.H.M. Mustafa Kamal announced tax incentives for companies hiring transgender workers in the annual national budget in an attempt to secure a better standard of living for trans people.

"I propose to enact special tax incentives with a view to providing employment and ensuring a rise in living standards and social and economic integration of the members of the third gender," Kamal said.

Bangladesh has an estimated population of 1.5 million transgender people who face discrimination and violence, France24 reported. Many are forced to live through begging, the sex trade or crime. Bangladesh only hired its first transgender news anchor in March of this year.

Transgender people have been allowed to identify as a separate gender, known as Hijra, since 2013 under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government. In 2018, trans people were allowed to register to vote as a third gender, France24 reported.

The LGBTQ community still faces discrimination in Bangladesh, with bullying and abuse causing many transgender people to flee their homes, making it difficult to find a job. A colonial-era law is still in place that punishes gay sex with prison, although enforcement of the law is rare.

Kamal's proposal is a 5 percent tax cut, or reimbursing 75 percent of transgender workers' salaries, to employers who hire 10 percent of their total workforce or more than 100 workers from the community.

Trans people in Bangladesh
Members of the transgender community learn to read the Holy Quran inside the Islamic Seminary for the third gender, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 17, 2020. Bangladesh Finance Minister A.H.M. Mustafa Kamal amnnounced tax incentives for companies hiring transgender workers in the annual national budget in an attempt to secure a better standard of living for them. Munir Uz zaman/AFP via Getty Images

The proposal was welcomed by members of the trans community and some corporations.

Anonnya Banik, president of the transgender rights group Sadakalo Hijra Unnayan Sangha, said, "It is very good news for us," but called for further measures such as tax breaks for businesses run by transgender people, France24 reported.

"We are massively hit by the coronavirus crisis. We should be given tax breaks and interest-free loans," Banik said.

Mostafizur Rahman, chief executive of Smart Group, a Bangladeshi denim maker, also voiced his support.

"It is going to prompt a lot of business groups to employ Hijra people. It will keep Hijras off the streets," Rahman told the Agence France-Presse.

There are currently no financial benefits for businesses that hire trans workers, the Dhaka Tribune reported, though the National Board of Revenue hopes this proposal will change people's mindset about transgender people, and lessen discrimination against them.

Relief in Bangladesh
Transgender people wait to collect relief material during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, in Dhaka on May 6, 2020. Kamal has proposed a 5 percent tax cut, or reimbursing 75 percent of transgender workers' salaries, to employers who hire 10 percent of their total workforce or more than 100 workers from the community. Munir Uz zaman/AFP via Getty Images