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Our identity creates obstacles for us: Transgender activists

Jul 03, 2015

The third national Hijra Habba called for a big push for transgender and Hijra welfare by expanding access to health, education and employment.

New Delhi: For the transgender (TG) and Hijra communities, visibility is the biggest challenge as it invites derision and discrimination from people and compounds their problems. This sentiment was echoed by the representatives of the sexual minorities in India at the Third National Hijra Habba or the ‘Transgender Festival’ held in the New Delhi.

Organised by the India HIV/AIDS Alliance’s Pehchan programme, this year’s Hijra Habba served as a forum for dialogue between national and state social welfare departments and prominent transgender and Hijra community leaders for paving way to an action plan for the welfare of transgenders.

"Our problem is that we are visible, therefore, discrimination against us still continues. I was barred from entering a mall many times in the national capital. 'We don't have anything for you here,' I was told, as if I dress or eat something differently," said Rudrani Chhetri from Delhi.

Sex being a taboo in the society to even speak about, sexual minorities like the transgenders face discrimination, said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a veteran transgender activist.

Trangenders were respected earlier in the society but they now face discrimination and harassment. “It is the responsibility of the state and the Central governments to see that as an Indian, my inclusion in the society and my rights are ensured with dignity,” she said.

Another transgender activist Akai Padmashali challenged the patriarchal set up that discriminates against the sexual minorities in the country. She said that transgenders are vulnerable in the country because of their identity. “I am a woman without a vagina, without a breast and without a uterus. But let me know who decides what gender is first, second or third. I want to know who has the right to question my dignity in the society,” she said.

National-award winning film director, Onir, lamented that films with transgenders in the lead roles do not get financial support.

Bollywood actor Monica Dogra, known for her solemn roles in films like 'David' and 'Dhobi Ghat' stressed on the need of removing stigma attached to the transgendered community. “We need to build empathy among our people for creating a more inclusive society in all spheres,” she said.

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India, On April 15th 2014, recognised transgender people as a third gender. The apex court recognized and protected the rights of transgenders and gave specific directions to the Central and state governments to take into consideration their education, employment and health concerns.

Representatives of Hijra community lamented that little had changed to improve the lives of transgenders, though they expressed hope over some recent actions in the government.

In April 2015, a private member’s Bill protecting the rights for transgenders was passed by the Rajya Sabha. The Bill guarantees reservation in education and jobs, financial aid and social inclusion. This was for the first time in 45 years that a private members' Bill had been passed by the House.

The national assembly of the transgendered community witnessed a presence of social welfare officials, UN representatives, National AIDS Control Organization, members of Parliament, policy makers and more than 350 transgender and hijra community members from across India.

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