Still in search of space

Human Rights activist Thushar Nirmal Saradhy, green activist Purushan Eloor and several others addressed the gathering.

Kerala won laurels when it announced a policy for transgender community, which prompted its members to come out seeking social recognition and mainstream space. But they now complain of discrimination, cultural biases and oppression by the police and the public. What went wrong?

Kochi: The much talked of tag that Kerala is the first state to formulate a policy for the transgender community has not made much impact on the lives of the members of the community. Questioning the very basis of the tag, speakers belonging to a cross-section of the community and others said it would be better to describe Kerala as a trans-phobic state.

Inaugurating the Rights Declaration Convention of the transgender community in Kochi on Sunday, Faisal Faisu, transgender activist, detailed the institutional discrimination, cultural biases and outright oppression by the police against the community.

"Police officials in Kochi are openly saying that they would make the city transgender-free. How can police make such a statement in a state claiming that it had the first transgender policy?” Faisu said. The convention held in the background of the series of assaults by the police against transgenders in Kochi, focused mainly on the orchestrated campaign against the community by the police and the deep-rooted structural issues affecting the community. “As a community we have become visible in the past few years and we want to live with dignity like any other human beings”, Faisu said. He also decried the attempt by the police in Ernakulam to create an impression that members of the community were HIV-positive posing a threat to public health.

Addressing the convention, well-known scholar and writer Reshma Bharadwaj provided a detailed description of oppression unleashed by the state agencies. The state and its agencies were determined to banish all critical voices by demonizing them. The familiar pattern is to drown all voices raising critical questions with vicious propaganda and slander. The campaign unleashed against the members of the transgender community in Kochi by the police fits very well with this very familiar pattern. The police narrative makes transgenders into an evil body posing a threat to the normal life of society. Naturally, the police machinery becomes the automatic saviour of society from such evils.

Sukayna Krishnan, a Bengaluru-based activist working for the rights of the transgender, spoke about the lack of transparency and discussions in policy-making in the state. “There was no stakeholder dialogue before the formation of the Transgender Justice Board at the state level. The members of the board do not have a representative character”, she said. Although the matter was brought to the authorities concerned, nothing was done, she added. The government and the other authorities concerned had also not taken positive steps on the suggestions given to mitigate some of the problems faced by transgenders including health issues. “A nearly 200-page-report has been given to the social justice minister detailing some of the urgent needs including the facility for providing medicines at concessional rates” Sukanya said.

According to CS Murali, president of Kerala Dalit Mahasabha, struggle was the only option before the community to protect their rights and dignity. He equated the problems faced by the community as being similar to the issues confronting the Dalit community. Human Rights activist Thushar Nirmal Saradhy, green activist Purushan Eloor and several others addressed the gathering.

The convention called for action against the police officials in Ernakulam involved in fabricating cases against members of the community. The convention has listed half a dozen incidents in the past one year against transgenders by the police. The convention also demanded that police end the campaign of asking lodge, hotel owners and residential associations not to lease or give rooms on rent to transgenders. The convention also called for immediate steps to provide accommodation to transgenders ousted from lodges due to police pressure.

The convention has also called for a statewide campaign to create awareness amongst the people about the rights of transgenders on the basis of the Supreme Court judgment and the policy announced by the state government.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story