Changing facets of gender minorities

Stigmatised by society and disowned by relatives, the majority of India’s transgender community is forced to live with restricted access to education, jobs and health care.

Published: 11th August 2012 11:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th August 2012 11:27 AM   |  A+A-


Mahima is one of the lucky few among gender minorities to have a recognised job and earn a livelihood doing administrative work. This, by all means, has made her wear a smile and reduced dependency on sex work and begging.

But, the journey wasn’t easy for Mahima as she fought her way through years of struggle for personal freedom and choice of sexuality.

Mahima, who was born male biologically, was more comfortable being surrounded by women and girls since her childhood. A young boy saw himself as a girl and dreamt of being a girl.

Narrating her life story, Mahima take us through as to how there still exist misconceptions about the gender minorities, and how they are treated on a day-to-day basis.

“I always used to play with girls, preferred to wear girl’s clothes. Eventually, I admired their body and wanted to have female genitals. I wanted to be like them. Though, my mother and sister recognised my feelings, they never appreciated nor accepted. As I was having a feminine charm, I was being teased by friends and neighbours in the vicinity. I felt left out and I used to search for people who could understand my feeling.

"One fine day, I met a Hijra group and I went on a night out with them. After returning home, I was house-arrested for six months as my family members did not accept what I did. But after a couple of years, I had to run away from home, as I was not treated with dignity. The environment at college was no different. Guys used to grope me and teachers used to abuse me. I had to quit my studies due to social stigma that existed and it was a mental torture each day. I had to resort to begging and sex work, as no one was ready to give me job.

"It took me four years to save enough money for my treatment to remove my male genitals and have a breast implant. It seems like only yesterday. There was no one to stop me, not even my family, from pushing through, because it was my mindset that was important.

"After 6 six years, I visited my parents and started giving them money every month. But, I was made to wear a burka whenever I walked in and out of the house. The reason, it was considered a shame for my family members to explain my gender identity to neighbours as they felt that they would be disregarded in the ‘society’.

"And the horror continued from sexual abuse by drunken men (clients) to taunts from women and beatings from police…”

This is the story of an estimated two million people in India who, in the eyes of the society at large, have no real identity. The extreme stigmatisation surrounding transgressions around alternative sexuality as well as sex work makes it extremely difficult for families to accept their children.

Stigmatised by society and disowned by relatives, the majority of India’s transgender community is forced to live with restricted access to education, jobs and health care.

The Government is yet to take up a census of the people belonging to gender minorities in the state/ country. In spite of the reading down the anti-sodomy law, Section 377 of the IPC in 2009, members of these groups remain stigmatised and outside of the mainstream. While headway has been made, the journey to equality is not over.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document of human rights law, “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state” (Article 16) Underlying this discourse on the family is the presumption that it is an essential structure for the protection of human rights, including the rights of liberty and dignity. However, for the gender minorities, the experience of the family is stark different.

Instead of protecting their child from the violence inflicted by the wider society, the family in fact provides an arena to act out the intolerance of the wider society.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties, an organisation working in defence of Civil Liberties and Human Rights, in its report on ‘Human rights violations against the transgender community’ has highlighted these issue and has noted that, given the enormous sense of isolation faced by gender minorities, particularly in the villages, the only solace or hope is when they get to know that there exist other people like them who live in the bigger cities.

This in turn contributes to the formation of the Hijra community as a largely urban phenomenon. Changing times For the first time in the history of the Karnataka High Court, a transgender was appointed as an employee.

C Anu has been appointed in the Group ‘D’ category.

Interestingly, yet another transgender women Priyanka works as a radio jockey at Radio Active Radio, an urban community radio hosted by Jain Group of Institutions, as part of its social outreach program.

Akkai Padmashali of rights organisation Sangama in Bangalore, who has been fighting for the right of the gender minority community for the past two decades says that things have begun to alter in the traditional Indian mindset and notes there seems to be both subtle and appreciable changes taking place in terms of how this group are being treated and recognised by mainstream society.

But, she does not cast away the government ignorance towards them.

“Three years ago, a number of promises were made by the then chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, with regard to providing us ration cards, pension, etc and a Government order was passed in this regard. But the promises have just remained on papers and are yet to materialise,” she adds.

The Karnataka government identified The Department of women and Child Development to be the nodal agency to address the concerns of gender minorities recognised the Karnataka State Women Development Corporation as the nodal institution to extend necessary facilities to the Gender minorities members Key points promised to gender minorities in GO NO. MaMaE 68 MaANi 2010 DATED 20-10-2010)

■ The Gender minorities group to be included in the Category-2A of the Backward Classes List as per the recommendations of the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission.

■ Inclusion in the voters’ list by the Revenue Department.

■ Providing 01% reservation in the admission to college courses.

■ To be provided with houses constructed by the Slum Clearance Board.

■ To be given BPL ration cards by the Food and Civil Supplies Dept.

■ To be given free medical assistance and implementing health insurance to these members under Yashashwini Health Insurance Scheme by the Health and Family Welfare Department.

■ Financial assistance and required training to a member of Gender minorities up to Rs 20,000/- or to a group of 5 members up to Rs 100,000/- by the Women Development Corporation.

However, of these nothing seem to have materialised in reality and the reservation in education which could uplift the society in a large way has not moved an inch forward.

“The gender minorities do not have an identity yet. We have reminded the Election Commission and other departments concerned to issue them ID cards. Once this is done, other benefits will follow easily. The problem with such groups is that most of them do not have a permanent address. This is an area of concern,” said Narayanaswamy, Managing Director of Karnataka State Women’s Development Corporation.

(With inputs from Alternative Law Forum and Sangama)


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