For Sanjeevani Chauhan, a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, from begging to currently being trained as a taxi driver, she believes, life has come a full circle. The recent initiative by Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai NGO, and Wings travels to launch ‘Wings Rainbow’ cab services with members of the transgender community was a step in the right direction for the integration of the transgender people into society.
The bench consisting of Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice A K Sikri said that “…recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue. Transgenders are also citizens of India.” Many activists believe that the recognition of ‘Hijra’ or transgender people as a third gender was progressive measure in India’s conservative society. After the judgment was declared, National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) University went a step further and granted a gender neutral certificate with the honorific term ‘Mx’ for one of their students.
Transgender people face injustice and discrimination. Many of them are turned away from their homes at a very young and are pushed into begging and forced prostitution. The mandatory binary gender option available on all application forms have only deprived them of their basic right to exist.
Of late things have brightened up for them. A historic bill, introduced by Member of Parliament, Tiruchi Siva at the Rajya Sabha was unanimously passed. The bill aims to promote the rights of the transgender community through financial aid and reservation in varied sectors. An initiative by the Kolkata Police to recruit transgender people in their work force was well received. Manobi Bandhopadhyay took over as the first transgender principal in a college in West Bengal, and the last Durga puja that was celebrated in Kolkata had transgender members in the committee. Still a lot more has to be achieved.
“The initiatives are only a tip of the iceberg. Most importantly central and state governments have to work on eradicating sex work and begging. What about students who do not conform to the regular gender?” said Kalki Subramaniam, a prominent transgender activist.
According to the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011, the transgender community comprises 0.1% of India’s rural population. States such as Andaman & Nicobar Islands, West Bengal, Gujarat, Odisha, and Mizoram have the highest proportion of transgenders.
India has a mixed legacy in reference to LGBT rights. In comparison with the developed countries, India is a step ahead in terms of transgender legal rights. The transgender community is included within the definition of marginalized groups, thereby enabling them to receive legal aid from the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA).
Certain Indian states have also made progress in gaining some legal protections and setting up Transgender Welfare Boards.Last November, at the glittering International Conference on Gender Equality the government of Kerala, unveiled a new policy for transgenders that emphasized on equality. The objective of the policy is to support the attainment of a just society for all men, women, and transgenders with equal rights to access opportunities, resources, and benefits for their development. Moreover, the members of the TG community would also enjoy the fundamental right to live with dignity free from violence.
The spirit of the Indian constitution is to provide all her citizens equal opportunity to attain their potential irrespective of their caste, creed, sex, and religion. With the recent landmark judgment, the spirit is set to shine upon the transgender community.