Nazrul Islam Ritu says her recent victory in a mayoral election was a sign that society had become more accepting of the Hijra community — a group who were assigned male at birth but identify outside the gender binary.
“The glass ceiling is breaking. It is a good sign,” Ritu said, according to Al Jazeera.
“The victory means they really love me and they have embraced me as their own,” she said. “I will dedicate my life to public service.”
Ritu is one of the country’s 1.5 million transgender people. Many face discrimination and violence. Due to the transphobia they face, trans people in the country are often forced to live on the streets, begging for money and food to stay alive.
She was born into a large Muslim family in Trilochanpur. Eventually, she fled and joined a community for transgender people in Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.
Ritu, who uses both female and male pronouns, returned to her hometown in her 20s and became a popular community figure. She helped build mosques and donated to nearby Hindu temples.
Now she’ll serve as Trilochanpur’s mayor after winning last Sunday’s election by about 9,500 votes, which was almost double the total number of votes her opponent received.
“She won it fair and square. There were no reports of violence during the election, unlike some other towns,” local government administrator Jerin told Al Jazeera.
The mayor-elect will be the first mayor identifying as third gender, which is the country’s official title for trans people, according to the outlet.
“I’m sure she can fulfill the promises she made to us because she has always been a philanthropist, helping people,” said Nurul Hossain, a voter in Ritu’s constituency.
One of the main goals of Ritu is to “eradicate corruption and uproot the drug menace” in the town of 40,000.
Back in 2013, trans people were allowed to start identifying as a separate gender. In 2018, they could mark third gender as a designation to vote.