Cell to provide free legal advice to transgenders

The members of the transgender community often hesitate to approach lawyers for legal advice as they fear discrimination. To put them at ease and help them secure their rights, the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) has started a Trans Law Cell which provides free legal services to transgenders.

The cell was set up in July 2017 in the office of CLPR on Primrose Road. The cell functions once a week on Tuesdays, from 5 pm to 6 pm, and anyone can walk in and consult the lawyer there without an appointment.

Most people approach the cell for advice on getting their name or gender changed in documents, said Jayna Kothari, executive director. Aid has been provided on issues related to family property, gender reassignment surgeries and even adoption. Interest from the community has been picking up and they even get calls from outside Bengaluru, seeking legal advice.

A challenge the centre faces is convincing people to come to the cell as many in the community are hesitant about seeking legal advice.

“They have legal issues but they are scared of not getting help from lawyers because they are transgenders. It takes them a lot of courage to approach us. Many prefer to call first and approach in person once they get comfortable,” Jayna said. To help them feel comfortable, CLPR ensures that a member of the transgender organisation, Swatantra, is present in the cell.

“Although there are many organisations that work for transgenders, it is only the second or third such exclusive legal services cell. It is the first of its kind in Karnataka,” said Akkai Padmashali, noted transgender activist. Her organisation “Ondede,” and “Swatantra” are trying to create more awareness in the community about the cell. “So far, those in trouble would contact others in the community and we would mobilise support. We would help with family issues or when there is trouble with the police, But this will be very helpful for legal services,” she added.

Right now, CLPR is focused on spreading the word about the cell in the community. As the number of people visiting the cell grows, they will work on building their resources and may even get more lawyers to work in the cell.

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