Access to social and legal entitlements are our rights too, say members belonging to the vulnerable communities on this Human Rights Day (December 10)
If the recent attack on a member of the transgender community made them realise they are vulnerable, Human Rights Day made them come together and strengthen the fight for their rights. The Centre for Advocacy and Research and WE – Community Action Network jointly observed Human Rights Day in the city last Monday.
Representatives from various vulnerable communities – transgenders, men having sex with men and sex workers – narrated their woes and the discrimination they are subjected to in society.
Learn and understand laws
Addressing the gathering of members of vulnerable communities, Jesintha Martin, Sub Judge, District Legal Services Authority, said, “Human rights are common for all. The voice of the vulnerable community members should reach the policy makers who could bring in amendments that will ensure rights of transgenders.”
“We face practical difficulties,” she said. “To get rid of all these hindrances, transgenders should understand their rights, analyse their needs so that they can place their recommendations to the policy makers.” She added, “As a first step, educate your community members on their rights and place your recommendations consistently.”
She also said that the District Legal Services Authority through its Para Legal Volunteer Training Programme could empower the community to highlight and address the legal issues faced by them.
Join hands to help
Anandhavalli, District Social Welfare Officer, said, “The State Government has been providing support for the community through various welfare schemes. It is equally important for community-based organisations to partner with government departments to reach out to the community members who are in real need of schemes.”
Barathikannama, a transgender from a community-based organisation in Madurai, said, “Though the transgender community have gained some recognition in Tamil Nadu, there are still many incidents of violence against the community.” Condemning the recent murder attempt on a transgender from Madurai, she said, “It is necessary that such incidents are dealt with seriously and those who committed such crimes should be brought to justice.”
Ms. Renuka, a sex worker from Pengal Marumalarchi Trust, spoke of how women in sex work are being charged with false cases and how organisations find it difficult to reach out to them and provide necessary legal assistance. She also said that many women do not have access to ration cards or voter ID, because of which they are unable to access government schemes, services and benefits.
Mr. Ganesan, State Coordinator, People’s Watch Organization, said, “It is important for everyone to be aware of human rights so that such violations can be prevented. The law is a strong weapon only when it is understood and used in the right manner.”
Jeeva, President, WE – Community Action Network, said, “As a network of sexual minorities we strive to improve the quality of life of people like us. Crisis situations which include human rights violations remain a serious threat for the development for the members of our community. Many of us still face a lot of violations on various fronts which cannot come to an end unless it is addressed collectively.”
WE - Community Action Network is a state-level network comprising 70 community-based organisations that are working for the uplift of women in sex work, transgenders, and men who have sex with men.
Members of the vulnerable communities from various districts including Madurai, Virudhunagar, Theni, Dindigul, Tirunelveli, Sivaganga and Thoothukudi spoke of some of the challenges they faced in accessing legal and social entitlements and the exploitation they often had to deal with.
Earlier, a signature campaign was initiated, in which chief guest and community representatives signed a banner to express their solidarity in protecting the rights of vulnerable communities.