Road ahead is still unclear

Transgender Rights

Precisely a month after a Supreme Court ruling recognised the rights of India’s long marginalised transgender community, Tanya Sharma claims to be a proud Indian. The 30-year-old, a member of India’s transgender community is happy that her gender identity is now being recognised.

But prod her a little further and she accepts that it is a long battle ahead for her community which is yet to see any tangible benefits of the ruling.

“I know that the ruling means we can get married now, but apart from that, there really has been no change. Section-377 is still not decriminalised so we still feel threatened. And I am not sure about the OBC benefits that we might be getting.
But I can say that our personal lives will be a lot easier if Section-377 is decriminalised.”

Tanya is among those of her community who are aware of the Supreme Court ruling for their community. They are also closely watching the curative petition that has been filed in the apex court. But apart from that, they are not widely aware of the myriad benefits that the ruling could bring to them vis-à-vis jobs and education.

Abhina Aher is an activist for the transgender community. She says that she will soon have a meeting with the HR department of some big companies which can translate into jobs for transgender people. Abhina says that while she sees confidence amongst transgender youth there are many practical issues which are not making life any easier for them.

“I see lots of parents coming to terms with the gender identity of their children after the ruling. Young people are also coming in the open now. But issues of our identity on Adhaar ID cards, Facebook and even separate toilets for the community have not been discussed at all.”

Sita Bhardwaj who runs the Kinnar Bharti Trust, agrees. “While the ruling is a matter of pride for us, there are still people who don’t realise the full meaning of this. We are trying to make sure that our community doesn’t remain backward and that they all come together to avail the benefits of this historic step.”

Arzoo Mehra, who is a field officer with the above organisation, says that her community requires ID proofs, with their gender on display, before they can step out and claim bigger rights for themselves.

The ‘bigger rights’ that the community has long fought for include recognition as an Other Backward Community (OBC), reservations in educational institutions and government jobs. It also means raising awareness about their new-found status and ending discrimination and stigma.

Rudrani Chettri is the director of Mitr Trust in New Delhi. It is a rights-based organisation which, among other things, works at assimilating the transgender community into the mainstream. The trust also came up with India’s first transgender calendar
in 2014.

She says that being clubbed with the OBC community has wider ramifications for the community. “If they were to provide us with even one per cent reservation separately, it could have helped us a lot. But what will be our share under the OBC category? The OBCs already have representatives for each community but who will be our representative? Also, how exactly would the new government make sure that we receive the benefits intended for us?”

Rudrani also says that the while the ruling has made people in the community happy, she does not know how many people outside the community will be accepting of their gender identity as well as sexual behaviour.

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