Members of several community based organizations, NGOs, lawyers, and trans and queer people are marching in Kerala today to demand justice for Tara, a 28-year-old trans woman who was burnt alive in Chennai on November 9.
It was reported that Tara, an outreach worker in Kerala, had gone to recharge her phone credit near Pondy Bazaar police station in the early hours of Wednesday. It was here that she was accosted by the police, accused of soliciting, and then taken into police custody. Tara had managed to call two of her friends for help, but by the time they arrived at the police station, they found her lying outside with 95% burns. She was rushed to Kilpauk Medical College but did not survive. The suspicious circumstances that led to Tara’s demise have sparked outrage within the LGBTQ community in the state and elsewhere.
The protests, asking for action against police violence, were led in Trivandrum and Ernakulam, by the groups Oasis Cultural Society and Allies, and Marvel, respectively.
Even though the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was unveiled in August this year, incidents of violence continue to persist against members of the trans community in India. The abuse of transgender Indians happens in varying degrees – from job discrimination, to denial of healthcare, to out and out sexual assault.
Akkai Padmashali, noted trans activist and the founder of the Bangalore based NGO Ondede, has spoken about the larger culture of hatred and violence that first forces trans people into begging or sex work, and then tries to keep them there. And even when trans people do break into mainstream professions like television and radio, instances of harassment, sexual or otherwise, are just prevalent. And widely watched media continues to churn out negative and downright offensive narratives.
All of these factors need to be considered when demanding justice for Tara, because they make up the larger culture from which transphobic crimes stem. In neighbouring Pakistan, a trans activist named Alisha was shot, and reached a hospital in Peshawar but succumbed to her injuries because hospital staff couldn’t decide whether to put her in the ‘male’ or ‘female’ ward. But gross negligence isn’t the only issue. It was only a few months ago that two trans women in Kochi were assaulted by the police. The latter were acting on some complaints about trans people creating “problems” in the area.
While the Bill sought to guarantee trans people equal rights, there were many reservations about whether it could overturn the social stigma against the community. Many people in India, and South Asia in general, continue to harbour irrational fears about trans people. And transphobic attitudes are commonly used to justify transphobic violence.
Cake reached out to some of the organizers of today’s protests, who said that while morale is low, the demand for justice must and will be raised. A petition to Tamil Nadu state administration has been launched today, and the community hopes to organize a bigger march sometime soon.
Featured Image Source: Regina/Facebook.