Come together, right now, over me

Divya Trivedi
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In pursuit of their rights:(From left) Gauri and Lakshmi make a point.Photo: Sandeep Saxena
In pursuit of their rights:(From left) Gauri and Lakshmi make a point.Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Violence against trasngenders is routinised. “It begins at our own homes from biological family members, relatives, neighbours; in educational institutions and the friend circle,” says Akkai Padmashali from Sangama in Bangalore. If they leave the society and this atmosphere, they are out on the streets, either begging or doing sex work where they face violence from goondas and police personnel. Even after they join the community, violence remains a part and parcel of their daily lives.

The recent murder of gay rights activist Anil Sadanandan alias Sweet Mariya in Kerala is a brutal example of extreme forms that the violence can take.

In order to tackle discrimination and injustice, the community has come together to demand a national commission for transgenders and a national TG/ hijra welfare board under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

“The welfare board should have units in every state and look into issuance of identity cards, housing, sex reassignment surgery and other matters. The commission should focus on legal issues, issues of reservation in educational institutes, marriage, property rights and gender identity. There should be a nominated post in the State Assembly and Central Assembly in Parliament, similar to the one that Anglo-Indians have today,” says Priya Babu of the Tamil Nadu Arvanigal Association. She has authored several books and is on the Tamil Nadu Transgender and Hijra Welfare Board.

This would enable the community to not only have a redress mechanism in place but also empower them to sensitise others in the government and create their own laws, says Priya Babu, speaking on the sidelines of the National Hijra Habba, a consultation and cultural event organised by Pehchan, a voluntary organisation.

“Habba is a Kannada word and is similar to a mela ,” says Shaleen Rakesh, Director, Technical Support at HIV/AIDS Alliance.

While the gay rights movement in the country has fairly matured, the issues of the transgenders have been invisible from the discourse at a national level.

“This is a platform to network and advocate in a collective voice on issues of denial of social entitlements, stigma, discrimination, ART treatment, healthcare and a host of other problems,” says Shaleen.

Besides, there are a lot of laws on paper for women regarding healthcare, domestic violence, etc but the transgenders or hijras cannot make use of them. For sex-reassignment-surgery, there is no clear law or national level protocol. There are World Health Organisation guidelines but they have not been adopted in India and sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is still a grey area, says Shaleen.

SRS is a priority for the community and in the absence of a law, castrations or which they term ‘Nirvana' take place secretly, which are not done properly.

“In SRS, you are taking female hormones to suppress male hormones. It leads to hormonal imbalances resulting in changes in every organ of the body, possibilities of infections are high, and the mood swings terrible,” says activist Gauri Sawant from Mumbai. She is on Maharashtra's Transgender Hijra Welfare Board as General Secretary and runs a care home for HIV-positive transgenders and hijras in Pune.

“The laws have to begin by first recognises the rights of these communities, question of protection of rights comes after that,” says Shaleen.

Transgenders demand a national commission and a welfare board for the community at

the National Hijra Habba

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