Welcoming the landmark judgment passed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday recognising hijras or transgenders as a “third gender, representatives of the long marginalised community said they had, for once, been identified as human beings.
“Earlier, we were forced to chose between the genders we never identified with. Now, we can lawfully assert our identity,” said Kaveri, a transgender working with a BPO in Mumbai.
Pallav Pathankar, director (HIV Programmes) at Humsafar Trust, an organization that promotes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights, said the order had come as a great victory and was a positive move ahead. He, however, said it was not the government policy that discriminated against Transgenders, but the people handling these policies.
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“It is an uphill task to have policies implemented. Both at the State and the Centre, there has been several schemes for the community. But, when it came to implementing them, we faced actual problems,” Pathankar said.
For this, the apex court has directed the States and the Centre to devise social welfare schemes for the third gender community and run a public awareness campaign to end social stigma.
Pathankar also pointed out that there was no parity on the documentation forms handed to members of the community by different government bodies. “Some government bodies identify the community under the third gender category, some as transgenders. This creates a lot of ambiguity. Unless these creases are ironed out, it will be a big challenge to have the schemes implemented,” he said.
Sowmya, a transgender and a training officer with Humsafar trust, said, “Availing opportunities in education and employment will now be our right. And that is a great deal. Besides sex work and begging, very few people are in the organized sector. The community is socially and economically backward. Only welfare schemes will make the much needed difference.”
Pathankar feels the inclusion of the community under the Other Backward Castes category will make the provision more open to exploitation. The ground-breaking judgment has also made medical intervention to determine gender identity unnecessary.
“If self-identification as man or woman, irrespective of sexual reassignment surgery, is now protected by law, then how will the government assess who should be added under the OBC section. This has been a part of our discussion, and we were skeptical of the reservation as it is highly prone to be misused,” Pathankar pointed out.
The apex court passed its order on a public interest litigation filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) urging the court to give separate identity to transgenders by recognizing them as a third gender.
Welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision, transgender rights activist Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, said, “The progress of the country is dependent upon human rights of the people. This is a very happy moment for the community. We have finally received independence today.” Tripathi had filed two intervention affidavits in the PIL.
Minster for Women and Child Welfare Varsha Gaikwad, who pressed for the inclusion of a separate chapter on “transgender welfare” in the Maharashtra Women’s Policy, too welcomed the decision. “Maharashtra government’s effort to create a Transgender Welfare Board has got a shot in the arm with the SC’s ruling. This is a step in the right direction,” she said.