By Cake Staff:
Kerala is poised to challenge negative attitudes about transgender people in yet another way by including them in the workforce for the Kochi Metro Rail. This news comes only a few months after ‘G-Taxi’ was announced in the same state, which aims to make social entrepreneurs of trans women involved in the programme.
Only last year, Kerala unveiled its Transgender Policy, that covers representation, freedom of movement, right to self-identification and more, and the state has proven to be comparatively forward-looking when it comes to trans rights.
Under the Kochi Metro system, they will be given “housekeeping, customer care and crowd management” positions, all of which will be facilitated by the government-run social inclusion project Kudumbasree.
There are currently 6 modern Metro systems operational across India, including Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chennai, Kolkata and the Delhi/NCR region. Kochi, which is one of 7 under-construction lines, and scheduled to open sometime next year, will be the first among all Metro lines to count trans members in its workforce.
“People tend to think that transgender people and Hijras are exclusively beggars or sex workers because they have no other work, or that they’re not capable enough to do any other work,” said trans rights activist Urmi Jadhav, talking about how trans Indians are left with very few livelihood options.
It was these same extenuating circumstances – of brutality, of being forced into sex work – that forced a group of trans persons to stage a protest in Kochi. When they decided to file an official complaint, however, they were themselves detained by the police. The confusion, they claimed, was caused by migrants coming into Kerala. “They commit theft, chain-snatching and indulge in other unlawful activities,” said Nasar, a trans activist, “but we are the ones being caught.”
Thankfully, these and other incidents have prompted authorities to take action and address the trans community’s concerns. Following this, the metro’s Managing Director Elias George and Kochi police commissioner M. P. Dinesh made the joint decision to offer employment opportunities to trans people living in the city.
Several other Indian cities, towns and states have made efforts to involve trans people in the mainstream. For the new semester, a women’s college in Jharkhand last month announced an interaction program for trans applicants. Around the same time, the UGC – governing body of higher education – unveiled a sexual harassment policy that covered trans students. Hopefully these and other measures will receive robust implementing and not remain simply on paper.