Voicing out stasis in transgender lives

This graphic shows a pair of scales with the left scale weighed down. The balance beam, tilted to the left, along with the central vertical stand, appears like a giant ‘T’ (as the first letter of ‘transgender’). A circle placed right at the centre of the balance beam just above the central stand can be visualized as a human face and makes the entire pair of scales look like a person with their arms stretched out, with one side weighed down. Just above the left scale is a thought cloud with text that says “Human Rights Violations”; a similar thought cloud below the right scale says “Court Verdicts, Boards, Bills . . .” The sense conveyed is that human rights violations are weighing down transgender people’s lives despite progressive court verdicts, legislations and welfare bodies for transgender communities in India. The pair of scales is shown inside a frame that implies confinement or lack of freedom. The entire graphic consisting of the scales, thought clouds and frame is itself placed inside another cloud shaped figure. The graphic colour scheme – a mix of deep blue for the scales, black for the text, and light and deep shades of grey interspersed with white for the other elements and the background – conveys a negative mood but not complete doom. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall (graphic based on Clip Art by Microsoft Office).

Happenings, Nov '17
A trans* community hearing organized last week in Kolkata captured numerous grievances and complaints of government inaction across West Bengal. Pawan Dhall reports

Kolkata, November 5, 2017: A comprehensive transgender policy for the state of West Bengal, expectations around greater accountability from the West Bengal Transgender Development Board (WBTDB), and concerns around a reported move by the government to ban transgender women from soliciting money against blessings (chhalla) at traffic lights were among issues highlighted at a trans* community hearing today at the Lokayata Samaj Trust Auditorium on Ripon Street in Central Kolkata.

Transgender activist Aparna Banerjee, also a member of the WBTDB and one of the event organizers, informed: “The transgender policy will aim to cover health, gender transition, education and scholarships, employment, insurance, marriage, divorce and adoption concerns of the trans* communities in the state.” The community hearing also took up the issue of nomination of names for the district cells of the WBTDB, a key element to make the board’s functioning more effective.

Quote: It should be noted that West Bengal was one of the first states in India to set up a development board for trans* communities. But more than two years down the line, the board’s functioning and response to the challenges faced by the trans* communities continues to belie expectations and often evokes severe criticism.Organized by transgender and other gender variant communities in Kolkata, the daylong event saw participation from across the state. A media release issued by the organizers said the common refrain throughout the event was repeated and diverse forms of human rights violations on the basis of preferred or perceived gender identity, gender expression and sexuality, and near-absent redress mechanisms. Such a sorry state of affairs was what prompted the community hearing.

Indeed, more than three years have gone by since the Honourable Supreme Court of India passed its landmark judgment in the National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India & Others case, popularly known as the NALSA verdict. A division bench of the apex court, comprised of Justices K. S. Radhakrishnan and A. K. Sikri, not only affirmed the Fundamental Rights and freedoms of transgender individuals but also upheld every Indian citizen’s right to self-determine their gender identity without having to undergo any form of feminization or masculinization, including surgical methods for gender transition.

This was followed by the formation of the West Bengal Transgender Development Board under the leadership of Dr. Shashi Panja, Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Minister of West Bengal. The board was set up to formulate inclusive transgender policies and social welfare schemes that would help reduce stigma faced by transgender and other gender variant individuals and promote greater socio-economic inclusion of these communities.

Yet, the communities still suffered grave atrocities and different forms of socio-economic exclusion. In the recent past, a number of transgender individuals reported facing discrimination in educational institutions, health care facilities, workplaces, public spaces and their natal homes. To make matters worse, redress mechanisms were not in place, and more often than not, the victims were subjected to further harassment and ridicule by the police and legal functionaries.

It should be noted here that West Bengal was one of the first states in India to set up a development board for trans* communities. But more than two years down the line, the board’s functioning and response to the challenges faced by the trans* communities continues to belie expectations and often evokes severe criticism.

A number of narratives shared by transgender and other gender variant individuals were documented (with informed consent) during the community hearing. These would be compiled along with a list of recommendations for submission to the WBTDB for their consideration. It remains to be seen if the board’s response would be any different from what it has been so far.

Main graphic credit: Pawan Dhall (graphic based on Clip Art by Microsoft Office).

Author Photo

Pawan Dhall

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!

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