Transgenders fight against state and stigma, demand equal rights

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Even as the world observes International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on Tuesday, thousands of transgenders will encounter, as they do almost daily, harassment and exploitation through the day. Delhi is not kind towards people of an alternative sexuality, and people like Lakshmi (name changed) suffer being called names, being accused of soliciting in the streets and even being attacked by people for being different.

NGOs such as Space and Sahodari Foundation are trying to empower transgenders across the city. Space started an exclusive group for transgenders called the Zeenat Club in Khajuri Khas in 2001, its aim being to educate the members about their rightsand to highlight issues in the LGBT community. The club has around 5,000 transgender members registered with it, but the effort still has to contend with hundreds of others being detained or harassed each month.

Take for instance the 10 transgenders currently detained at FRRO’s Shahzada Bagh detention centre. Space says that the authorities resort to a common practice of terming the detainees as illegal migrants and then deporting them to Bangladesh. “A number of them have documents to show that they are Indians, but they aren’t being allowed to leave the detention centre,” said activist Anjan Joshi. “This is a clear violation of their human rights.”

Rupika Dhillon, director of the Zeenat Club, corroborates that “this is not a new thing”. She says, “Many transgenders who don’t have immediate families are detained in this manner and they are easy to deport to Bangladesh. We get requests for help from a lot of them, and we try to rescue as many as possible.”

North-east Delhi has the largest transgender population in the capital and they are among the worst affected. While some are charged with being in the flesh trade, there are many others who wish to earn a decent living but are thwarted by widespread discrimination. “There is a social stigma about being a transgender,” says Mallika, a member of the community. “People still look down upon us. There also are instances when the cops think we are involved in crimes or indulge in illegal activities. We are easy targets.”

Police, though, claim they go by the rulebook. On International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, there will be many hoping that the rulebook gets a makeover.

Source: Times of India

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