Bangladesh Announces Tax Exemption for Firms Employing Transgender Persons

In a major fillip for its inclusivity efforts, the Bangladesh government has proposed a tax rebate for the companies hiring transgender people. If approved, it would be the first such move by any South Asian country. 

During the budget speech that he gave whole presnting the proposals for the country's annual budget for financial year 2021-22 last week, the incumbent finance minister of Bangladesh, AHM Mustafa Kamal spoke about this prospe give incentive. In his budget speech, he informed that companies employing 10% of the workforce or 100 people from the "third gender" will be awarded tax exemption. 

“The rebate will amount to 75% of the total salary paid to workers from the third gender, or 5% of the payable tax, whichever is lower,” announced the FM. He further declared it as another step towards the integration of marginalised communities into the mainstream. "The present government is relentlessly working to integrate the marginal and underprivileged population of the country into mainstream society and economy," he added. 

The proposal is being lauded by such LGBTQ+ community and human rights organisations across the globe. Article 19, a UK based Human rights organisation, working in Bangladesh appreciated the proactive move for financial upliftment of the transgender community. They claimed that it will prompt the society to regard transgender people as part of the gross development of the country.

The regional director of Article 19, Faruq Faisal told news agency Dhaka Tribune, "This initiative will increase employment opportunities for third gender persons in the private sector and change the social attitude towards them. Besides, these marginalized people will be able to contribute to the productivity and growth of the country." He added it would also help to improve their living standard. 

Bangladesh has a significant population of upto 1.5 million people identifying as 'third gender'  against the number projected number by the authorities which is 10,000. Homosexuality is still illegal in Bangladesh, and even warrants life imprisonment. Discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community is rampant. 

The government has been bringing progressive policies for the emancipation of the community over the last few years. In 2013, the transgender community was recognized as the third gender. In 2018, they were accorded voting rights and the right to apply for government jobs. Recently, a Bangladeshi news channel recruited its first transgender anchor. 

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