From landmark initiative to dusty corner: the story of Telangana’s transgender helpdesk

A more well-rounded approach involving various departments is required to truly address concerns pertaining to the transgender community, said Cyberabad Commissioner of Police Avinash Mohanty

Published - June 09, 2024 09:33 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Cyberabad Police Commissioner V.C. Sajjanar, noted social activist and Padma Shri Sunita Krishnan with transgender persons at the inauguration of ‘Transgender Community Desk’ (a gender inclusive community policing initiative) of Cyberabad police and Society for Cyberabad Security Council at Gachibowli police station in Hyderabad on Saturday.

Cyberabad Police Commissioner V.C. Sajjanar, noted social activist and Padma Shri Sunita Krishnan with transgender persons at the inauguration of ‘Transgender Community Desk’ (a gender inclusive community policing initiative) of Cyberabad police and Society for Cyberabad Security Council at Gachibowli police station in Hyderabad on Saturday. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

 

A small room on the right side of the Gachibowli police station houses a transgender help desk which is currently being used by the women police team for their day-to-day tasks. The inviting blue coloured board outside displays a hotline number for reporting cases against the community members.

Inaugurated in March 2021, the desk was touted to be the first of its kind for addressing concerns pertaining to the transgender community. In fact, more than three years later, it continues to be the only such desk in Telangana, which is now gathering dust.

“After a point, for at least a year now, not many people were coming in and so most of staffers were removed from there,” said Cyberabad Commissioner of Police Avinash Mohanty. The few complaints now are lodged directly with the Women Safety Wing here.

Telangana State Police chief Ravi Gupta said that Hyderabad Commissionerate’s experiment to open a similar helpdesk during this period also failed. He added that deliberations will be conducted to see if such helpdesks are required elsewhere in the State.

The ‘short’ success story  

Since its inception, the helpdesk saw hundreds from the community turning up with concerns ranging from no rented homes to no access to employment, relationship issues, family disputes, assault and violence among others.

“About 15-20 cases were filed at the helpdesk and were resolved through repeated counselling with the parties involved,” explained Sunita Surve, an officer in She Teams, former inspector of the women police and transgender desk.

Initially, people were hesitant to approach the police. Deploying a receptionist from the transgender community helped and complaints quickly started coming in, the official explained.

The helpdesk came into existence after cases of extortion and prostitution against the members of the community shot up, especially in areas like Kukatpally and Madhapur 100-feet road.

In the initial phase of operation, the desk mapped about 70 individuals with employment — 4-5 in IT companies, about 17 in private companies and 30-40 in small-scale industries. “Initially there was a lot of resistance from private companies. Even landlords refused to lease homes but extensive discussions with them finally worked out,” the official said.

Later, the helpdesk took up investigations into criminal cases. In one such case, a lesbian couple from Uttar Pradesh lodged a complaint about threat calls from their family members. Their families were called and counselled.

Bumpy road

With more social acceptance coming in and laws to support the community, the situation has improved manifold. However, officials still struggle to file legal cases under prevalent sections of the IPC.

“Most of the complaints were dealt with via counselling and only a few involving violence were filed under Section 323 of the IPC for example,” Ms. Surve explained.  

According to Mr. Mohanty, “a more well-rounded approach involving various departments is required to be able to truly address the concerns pertaining to the community. Just a desk with limited police intervention might not be the way out.”

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