Loud and clear message at meeting with Plan panel

Overwhelmed by the Planning Commission's decision to take on board their issues, people with different sexual preferences on Thursday said anything the government gave them should come as an entitlement and not charity.

Representatives of transgender people, men having sex with men, male and female sex workers, and injectable drug users and those infected with HIV/AIDS spoke their minds at a meeting convened by the Commission in the run-up to finalisation of the agenda papers for the 12th Plan.

“We are part of society and can contribute as much as others. Make schemes that link us to the national mainstream.” This message was loud and clear.

Old-age pension

While the Kalavathi of Chaithanya Mahila Sangha of Bagalkot in Karnataka said devadasis should be given an old-age pension and implementation of the existing schemes ensured, Bhagyalakshmi of Ashodhya objected to branding female sex workers ‘criminals' and said the amendments to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act should ensure respectability and an end to harassment of those with different sexual preferences.

Attitudes

“The attitude of the people towards us should change. There should be sensitisation of officials including policemen to our needs and problems,” said Suman of Sangama.

There should be short-term shelters for such people where they would not face social stigma and discrimination, she said citing the example of Tamil Nadu that has a separate law for the sexual minority and a special welfare board to address their concerns.

This is the first-of-its-kind meeting held by the Planning Commission with these groups.

“It was a good meeting where its officers and members learnt many things from us,'' said Akram of Ashodhya in Mysore. There should be social security for male sex workers too, he said.

Concern expressed

Concerned over the high incidence of injectable drug use in the northeast, particularly Manipur, Ricky Chhakchhual of HOPE, a community-based organisation in Imphal, favoured skill development schemes for rehabilitation and reservation of jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

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