Equality of gender? Ask Kiran Sakhi and she will tell you it is a myth.
A post-graduate degree holder in computer science from Panjab University, Sakhi says she now begs on the streets of Delhi for a living.
“I faced a lot of difficulties, I did sex work, begging, I did everything I could to make ends meet. I didn’t have these feelings before; life was pretty simple back then,” she says.
Life turned cruel for Sakhi after she embraced her identity as a transgender. The first thing she lost was her job.
“The company where I was working accepted me as a transgender, but after two months I began to feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t get along with my junior colleagues at that time. I could not work with them. I became a laughing stock for them,” she says.
“On March 6, 2014, I resigned forcibly and got myself out.”
Sakhi says her bosses at the company she worked last had motivated her not to quit, but now wherever she applied she was given a cold shoulder. She says she barely reaches the interview stage when she applies for a job due to her gender.
Sakhi, however, did find help somewhere. She says the Hijra community took her “under their wings” and treated her as a family member.
Due to their lack of access to jobs and education, many of India’s transgenders -also known as ‘hijras’ - are forced to work as sex workers or beg on the streets.
In April 2014, the Supreme Court recognised transgender as a legal third gender and, in a landmark judgment lauded by human rights groups, called on the government to ensure their equal treatment.
The court ruling recognised the community as a marginalised group and directed the authorities to implement policies to improve their socio-economic status.
This means all identity documents, including birth certificates, passports and driving licenses must recognise the third gender and the government must allocate a certain number of public sector jobs, seats in schools and colleges to third gender applicants, say lawyers.
But while the judgment was been welcomed by campaigners, it is not being implemented across the country.
Activists say the ruling is contradicted by the court’s reinstatement of a gay sex ban that does not recognise their right to sexual relationships.