Even as the Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalise sex between consenting homosexual adults was celebrated all over the country on Thursday, a section of the transgender community remained oblivious to its significance. In their minds, the battle for respect, dignity and acceptance by the society is bigger and far from over.
On Thursday, two members of the transgender community, who frequently visit the female second-class compartments in train, begging for money from passengers on the harbour line, said they were unaware of what the SC had ruled or how it will change their lives.
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“Our community either ends up in prostitution or we beg on trains. It’s not about the law, our image in society needs to be upheld. We need to be accepted into society and treated like human beings,” said a 25-year-old transgender.
The celebrations following the judgment was limited to members of the community actively fighting for their rights. Activist and transgender Gauri Sawant said that with literacy levels being low and poor social support, most transgenders are not even aware of their rights or the legal battle that the community is fighting. She added that there are also very few NGOs that work for transgenders.
“About 98 per cent transgenders are involved in anal sex, very few opt for sex change operation. For them, consensual sex will now become legal, which is a good move. It will give them protection legally,” Sawant said, adding that most members of the community are not even aware of Section 377 or its implications.
Sawant said that decriminalisation of homosexuality was much needed for transgenders, who are identified by their physical attributes and subjected to discrimination, unlike lesbian or gay individuals, who may not be identified as homosexual based on appearances. “Homosexuality is a behaviour for others in the queer community. For transgenders, it is an identity.”
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Rohini More (29), a transgender based in Powai, said: “Whatever the law states, at the end of the day, we need acceptance from our families, our society and relatives. We need support from our homes, we need to be understood as normal people.”
For LGBTQI, activists said, the judgment is just a beginning. “We need to fight for the right to marriage, to get equal job opportunities,” said Sridhar Rangayan, filmmaker who identified himself as gay.