“When Union finance minister presented the budget earlier this year, he allocated funds for different sections of the society. However, the interest of the transgender community did not a find a mention. It never has. Are we not citizens of this country?” asks Kajal Mangalmukhi, president of Sakshama– an NGO for transgenders in Chandigarh. She was speaking at an event organised jointly by Sakhsham , the social welfare department of Panjab University and Voluntary Health Service (VHS), Chennai, in Chandigarh on Saturday.
Around 70 transgenders from Nabha, Nawashahar, Jalandhar and Chandigarh got together at the event to commemorate the Supreme Court’s historic verdict of 2014, upholding rights of the transgenders. They were also joined by members of the LGBT community in Chandigarh and students of PU.
The event was part of an initiative to demand that April 15, day of the SC verdict, be observed as ‘Transgender Day’. Similar events are being organised in other states too.
Speaking at the event, Dr G Pannerselvam, senior programme manager at VHS, said, “Following the SC verdict, some change is visible. Now people have the legal freedom to declare their sexuality, strive to get education and some economic freedom. But, a lot of sensitisation is still required.”
However, despite three years of the apex court’s verdict, challenges are far from over for the community. “When a transgender wants to undergo a sex readjustment surgery or silicone, there are few hospitals for them. They face problems at all fronts, be it social, medical, legal or personal,” added Pannerselvam.
“Why can’t the government allocate us houses under the Indira Aawas Yojana? There aren’t separate toilets for trangenders at public spaces. We face harassments at security checks because neither male nor female cops agree to frisk us,” says Kajal.
Reflecting upon the legal status of transgenders, Mahavir Singh Ahlawat, member secretary of Punjab state legal service authority, said, “Judicial recognition is just the first step. Getting social recognition through sensitisation is the bigger challenge ahead.”
Dhananjay Mangalmukhi, who made headlines last year when she became the first transgender student of PU, said, “We can’t depend on others for it. Education is the best weapon that we have as it empowers us to strive for the better. The government should bring out scholarships for transgenders because we don’t have any income source.”
But are transgenders sufficiently aware about their own rights? Dhananjay says it’s a long road ahead. “We are scarred from our own selves. No doubt that there is discrimination in the society. But many times, we perceive ourselves to be discriminated.”
“Only education can help us overcome this,” she adds.
During the event, the participants also raised problems of housing, lack of public toilets, scholarships, personal and legal protection.
Raising concerns about sexual abuse, a participant from Nabha said, “When a girl is molested, the police and society reacts. But when we are molested, we are mocked upon.”
Kajal, however, added that everything isn’t dark on the horizon. She said she feels encouraged when reading about transgenders becoming students, models, police officers and college principals. “But a lot needs to be done,” she said.
Dhananjay is left with a musing, “Just like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, why can’t there be ‘Transgenders Bachao, Transgenders Padhao’?”