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Transgenders: Struggling for identity, equality and dignity

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By: Er. Prabhat Kishore

The revolutionary decision of Bihar Government to recruit transgenders as sub-inspector and constables in State Police Force has opened the door of opportunities for fulfilling their aspirations. After Apex Court judgement in 2014 for mainstreaming of transgenders, this inherent commitment reinforces the outlook of government regarding their long-awaited acceptance in the society.

Transgenders are most marginalized section of our society. They are bereft of their fundamental rights and privileges. Their exclusion in every walk of life, whether it is social, religious, cultural, political, professional, educational, health care or any other sectors, has made their life miserable.

Transgender(TG) is basically an umbrella term that includes the person whose own sense of gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at birth. They include trans-men or trans-women (whether or not such person has undergone Sex Reassignment Surgery or hormone therapy or such other therapy), genderqueers, person with intersex variations and a number of socio-cultural identities such as Kinnar, Hijra, Aravani, Jogta, Shivshaktietc.These people are often discriminated due to their transgender identity, expression or behaviour.

This group of humans are firstly rejected by their parents and then by the entire society. They are deprived of their right of inheritance and have to leave their parental house. Accordingly, they have none to rely on; other than like their own physical and mental group. Due to lack of social acceptance, inaccessibility of education, their reluctance to get an appointment in a formal job and so many reasons; they ultimately trap in to unemployment or under-employment. For livelihood, they have to struggle at every step and sometimes forced to engage in uncivil commitment by begging, snatching or even prostitution.

Non-recognition of the identity of Hijra/transgender persons denies them equal protection of law, thereby leaving them extremely vulnerable to harassment, violence and sexual assault in public spaces, at home and in jail, also by the police. Sexual assault, including molestation, rape, forced anal and oral sex, gang rape and stripping is being committed with impunity.

Our society seldom realise the trauma, agony, and pain which the transgender people undergo nor appreciates their innate feelings, specially of  those whose mind and body disown their biological sex. They are forced to live in low self-esteem, low income and poor social dignity. These people are so much neglected that the house owners avoid to rent them as they think that other residents will feel discomfort. Transgenders face fear, shame, gender dysphoria, social pressure, depression, suicidal tendencies, social stigma, etc.

Although in some cases there is complain from people about transgender’s rough behavior, objectionable comments and forceful begging. At some places, they are seen blackmailing, and even keeping children hostage for money. They become ruthless and barbaric for meeting their needs. But such rare incidences can be dealt under already prevailing laws.

In India, the transgenders have mythological and historical background as they had a glorious semi-scared status in the society. The concept of “Tritiya Prakriti” or “Napunsaka” (to denote absence of procreative capability) has been an integral part of Ved and Puran. They have been described with significant role in Mahabharat and Ramayan. Lord Ram has sanctioned them power to confer blessings to people on auspicious occasions of marriages, childbirths and inaugural functions; which laterontransformed into a custom “Badhai”, whereupon the Hijrassing, dance and bless. In KurukshetraYuddha of Mahabharat, the decisive role was played by Shikhandi, a transgender, in the killing ofBhishmaPitamah by Arjun. Aravan, the son of Arjun and Nagkanya had also the association with transgender Mohini(transformed female form of Lord Krishna) before he self-sacrificed himself to Goddess Kali for the victory of Pandav.

The transgenders had prominent role in royal court of Islamic world, particularly in Ottoman empire and Mugal rule. Jain literatures also contain reference to TG which mentions the concept of “Psychological Sex”. Actually their situation changes drastically during British Rule in 1871, when the entire Hijra community had been legislated as criminal tribe. With the passage of time and change in social & cultural context, majority of them are now partingaway from their traditional profession.

In India,the Supreme Court,in its landmark judgement on 15th April 2014, accorded transgender as the “Third Gender” for the purpose of safeguarding their fundamental rights anddeclared them as socially and economically backward citizen. An “Expert Committee”, constituted under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MOSJE) for in-depth study of transgender, has recommended various measures to ameliorate their problems. This Ministry has been made nodal agency to accelerate the welfare works with convergence of various Ministries and their schemes.

The schemesadvocated by the committee for transgender consist of loan with 25% subsidy to enable them to take self-employment ventures, pension scheme for 40-60 years age group, and grant-in aid to voluntary organization working for their empowerment. The recommendationsare also for setting up counseling services to cope up with trauma& violence crisis, involvement of Anganwadi workers and Self Help Groups on TG issues, action against delinquent police officials in case of violation of their fundamental rights, making work place sexual harassment policy transgender inclusive, and ensuring housing assistance schemes for them.

In educationsector,  the government have to provide scholarship, fee-waiver, free hostel and other facilities at subsidized rate. Anti-discrimination cell to monitor discrimination against TG will be formed and contents on TG will be included in the curriculum of adolescent education. Provision of Career Guidance and Online Placement support, vocational-training, survey to ascertain their population are also to be done for their well-being.Under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019, National Council for Transgender Persons (NCTP) have been constituted in 2020 for advising, monitoring, reviewing &co-ordinating the policies as well as redressing their grievances. At district level screening committee,headed by District Magistrate, has been constituted for the purpose.

Along with government initiatives to root outthe social stigma faced by the transgender community, intensive public awareness is needed.  Some TV showproducers have also  come forward to highlight such relevant and serious issues through serials like “Shakti – Astitwake Ehsaaski”.

Besides India, transgenders have also been recognised as Third Gender in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. In USA, people are struggling to legally recognize gender outside the male-female binary (such as Ay-gender, gender-fluid and pan-gender).

Transgenders are neither physically handicapped nor mentally disabled; but only lacks social identity in their life. For an educated advanced society, if we want to flourish, the only  wayis to include the entire third gender group into mainstream activities by making them empowered, educated, skilled and Atmanirbhar citizen.

(The author is a technocrat & academician)


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