On April 15, India’s Supreme court, in a landmark ruling, recognised transgender people as a third gender. In Hindi, transgenders are called hijras.
Four years ago I was at a meeting on transgenders in Mumbai. I was asked if I would share a room – with a transgender. I agreed but was somewhat anxious. I needn’t have worried. Chennai based Shanti was poised, smart and multi-talented. She was doing her Master’s, had a government job and was active in the transgender movement. However, there were others in the meeting not as fortunate as Shanti.
Most of them has some or no education, few marketable skills and made whatever living they did by pimping, prostitution, singing and dancing and begging.
It was an eye opening two days. I learned a great deal about their struggles and challenges, heartaches and sorrows. And I learned that we, non-transgenders (if I could coin the word) knew very little about them and the discrimination they faced on a daily basis.
The Supreme Court further ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities. While this may provide them with some opportunities, knowing how the bureaucracy works, it will still be a tough battle for them.
A change of heart and mind of non transgenders toward the transgenders is what is really needed. And that, unfortunately, cannot be legislated.
By Anita Anand