Seek commission to look into their housing, educational and medical needs

‘Elation’ was the word members of the transgender community in the city used to describe their reaction to the Supreme Court judgment, which recognised them as the ‘third gender’, on Tuesday.

They should be given employment opportunities and admitted to educational institutions on this basis, the Court ruled.

“This is a historical milestone,” said Kalki Subramaniam, founder of Sahodari Foundation that works for transgender rights.

Lauding the judgment, Ms. Kalki said from the days of the British Raj, when eunuchs were considered ‘criminal tribes’, to this day, the battle had been long and hard.

“The judgment is a recognition of our rights as citizens in this country — the right to employment, right to marriage and adoption, and the basic right to live without discrimination,” she said.

The judgment was based on a PIL filed by the National Legal Services Authority and laid down a number of directions to the government — construction of special public toilets, devising social welfare schemes and public awareness campaigns to eradicate social stigma, and the setting up of departments to look into their medical issues.

However, activists said a lot needed to be done by the State government to implement the judgment. “The first step would be to help transgenders enrol in colleges and find work. This, along with housing, continues to be a major issue for the community. If a commission could be set up at the Centre to look into such issues, it would be of great help,” said R. Jeeva, president, Community Action Network.

“With this judgment, we will now be able to demand benefits from the Puducherry government,” said K. Sheethal, president, Sahodarar Community-Oriented Health Development Society.

Sunil Menon, founder, Sahodaran, an LGBT initiative, said the decision was a shot in the arm. “It indicates the judicial system is opening up, and is a step in the right direction. But the struggle has just begun — the focus now has to be on preparing a larger, conducive environment for the inclusion of the third gender in all spheres,” he said.

Social media, too, was full of praise for the judgment, with many terming it a restoration of faith in the judiciary, post the judgment on Section 377 in December.

(With inputs from Annie Philip and Kavita Kishore)

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