Every day after attending lectures in college, where she is pursuing BCom (Hons), 27-year-old transgender Durga heads to the streets to beg. For the last 12 years, begging has kept a roof over her head, and her stomach full. After saving enough money, the resident of Ongole, Andhra Pradesh, was at Sansad Marg in Delhi Sunday to protest against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) bill, 2016.
“I ran away from home when I was in school. There was no acceptance in my family or society. I wanted to study but I also had to beg to earn a livelihood. Now, according to this bill, it proposes that enticement to beg be criminalised. This is how we earn as we have no other option, no one wants to give us a job,” said Durga.
She was one of the 150-plus people from across the country who gathered Sunday to protest the bill, after the central government’s decision to introduce the bill in the current winter session of Parliament.
Santa Khurai, one of the most well-known transgender activists from Manipur, doesn’t remember exactly when she understood her gender identity. She does, however, remember hearing “nga marak sha marak” while growing up. “It’s a taunt, a slang, which means ‘in between an animal and a fish’… I am reminded of this after going through the bill’s definition of who a transgender is, it’s irrelevant and frustrating,” said Khurai.
A few days before Dona Marven, 27, left Shillong to reach Delhi for the protest, members of the transgender community back home were worried about the proposal of the “screening committee” in the bill. “Where is the protection of rights here? Why do we have to prove in front of absolute strangers that we are transgenders. This is absolute discrimination,” said Marven.
For Kolkata-based Neel, 28, who identifies as a trans-man, the major problem in the bill lies in the “narrow definition of family which only emphasises on the biological family”. “I am undergoing sex change surgeries, and my biological family doesn’t even know. They don’t want to know, I don’t live with them. The community I belong to has given me emotional and mental strength. This is my family,” he said.