BSA changes tradition to be more inclusive in annual 'Mehndi and Mishti'
The Bangladesh Student Association hosted its annual Mehndi and Mishti event on Nov. 1 during club hours. Translating to Henna and Sweets, Mehndi and Mishti is a celebration held during the week of a traditional Bengali wedding. This is the third year BSA has held this event, which is part of a series of events that will lead to a mock wedding between two BSA members, held on Nov. 14.
The event was very light-hearted, with food, games and performances during the first half of the celebration. The rest of the time was spent dancing to loud music. In Southeast Asian culture, Mehndi and Mishti can be described as a bachelorette party.
The traditional food at the event included samosas, which are a triangle-shaped pastry that can be stuffed with cabbage and vegetables and then fried.
BSA decided to do something unique this year. Instead of picking a male and female member as the mock bride and groom, they chose two females. This is a huge statement, as same-sex marriage has been illegal in Bangladesh since 1860.
While rarely enforced, authorities in Bangladesh typically arrest people suspected of being gay. They then charge them with something else, such as drugs, or use Section 377 of the penal code, which criminalizes "unnatural offenses."
BSA hoped this choice of an untraditional wedding couple would create positivity for the LGBTQ community and Muslims.
"The LGBTQ community in Bangladeshi is a big taboo where not a lot of people like to talk about it," said Auchal Azad, one of the ceremonial brides and former BSA president. "We're the new generation; we wanted to create a difference and create an atmosphere where everyone is welcome."
Azad emphasized that anti-gay sentiments are found only within the country of Bangladesh and do not reflect the club's cultural and religious values.
But Azad went on to say that some people join the club thinking the group is conservative because they believe it will center around the Islamic religion.
However, this is far from the case — the group is not only about learning the religion but also about learning the culture and is a place to make friends.