With confusions and nervousness I dialed her number to get an opportunity to meet . A male voice came from the other end, expressing in the most polite manner how ‘she’ would love to meet me!
The other day it was Vijya Dashmi, before I wake up, I had already got a good morning call from ‘her’ to help me with the routes to her shelter.
As clouds played in the sky and I ignorantly walked out, little did I know I was going to meet the sun of courage or rather a courageous ‘son’ of change.
Dressed in a white salwar kameez and big red bindi on her forehead she welcomed me with a male voice echoing the love of a mother.
Born as Satya Sundar Mishra in an orthodox Brahmim family of Khendujhar, a rural town of Odisha, she walks with pride as she introduces herself as Ms. Sadhana Mishra, a transgender.
Walking down the muddy lanes of her slum turned home, I was embraced with love and holi colours on my face as the transgender community was celebrating the auspicious Vijyadashmi. Not only colours in the air but they were spreading colours in the smiles of various children by giving them free meals.
India, a home to 4.9 Lakh transgender yet thousands remain in the shackles of abuses, violence, sexual harassments, public humiliation and discrimination.
On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment recognizing the fundamental and civil rights of transgender persons but since then there has been very few changes in the social arena of the country and perspectives towards transgender.
The hate crime and violence towards transgender begins from an early age itself, with moist eyes Sadhana recalls how she used to get physically abused by her elder brothers, the series of teasing and humiliating comments she went through during her teenage. In 2006 she decided to reveal her identity, she was born with gender dysphoria but suddenly closing the doors of hope and support even her family abandoned her but amidst the moist eyes I see the spark of pride in her when she confessed proudly that she never compromised with her dignity. There were hard times when surviving was getting tough, getting two square meal a day was becoming a mirage but she never bent down to do odd jobs. Sadhana believes that her specialty of being blessed as a transgender was compulsively made to look like a disorder in many places. Her education was self funded by doing tuitions and she had to complete her education by suppressing her identity because the colleges and institutions did not provide admission to transgenders, raising serious questions on the aspects of equality.
“When I used to stand infront of the mirror I used to see the reflection of two sides of me. One was Satya Sundar Mishra and the other was Sadhana Mishra. I was born as an optimist person, I am not afraid to die if thousands come to attack me, I would rather fight and die. I am ready to die by bringing a change in the world. I love mountains of problems, I am willing to climb all such mountains to conquer my goal.”
There was a certain point in life when she fell in the trap of suicide but now looking back at that specific day, she believes it as a re-birth. It gave her the courage to stand for everyone who are dying everyday. It gave her the courage to stand in international sphere such as leadership program and get honoured by the then President of United States of America, Barack Obama. Presently, serving as the social development officer of world’s largest tribal school (Kalinga Institute of Social Stuudies) simultaneously working with various organizations such as UNDP and many more.
As the coffee was getting colder and rain was hitting the window pane, the conversation was getting warm, with curiosity I burst out with certain questions that were tangling in my mind.
In a country where women are subjected to harrassment, cage of freedom and violence then what made her willingly choose a life of a woman? What is her feminist perspective?
She smiles as she offers me to have the cup of coffee and narrates “I believe change starts with us and change ends with us. First, we need to change our perspective and that will follow all around. For me feminism is self and mutual respect and dignity. In most of the atmosphere you will find people worshipping Maa Durga and at other places molesting a women and disrespecting her. It shows the double standard of the society and that needs to be challenged. In many mythological stories and in realities people often approach transgender for blessings but why nobody ever invites us to to be a part of their festivals and celebration? “
As rain rests and sun was making it way amidst the clouds of hurrdles, Sadhana questions why the country categorised her as a ‘Third Gender’ who even decides the concept of first and second gender. Her voice chuckles with spirit and enthusiasm as she smiles at me and says, “There is a long battle ahead.”
As she hired an Auto for me and I was making my way to home, somewhere still lost in her positive energy, the auto driver took no minutes to inquire from me what was I doing in transgender area and what kind of job I am upto. Sadly, my answers to convince him about equality and change in perspective was not fruitful. In one hand of the society we find aspiring Change makers like Sadhana Mishra and in other hand we find victims or Victors of stereotypical mindset .
Sadhana is one example, there are lakhs of Sadhana who are battling everyday, every minute the humps of acceptance, equality, Liberty and survival. There maybe one Sadhana in you and one in me who are hiding beneath the prejudice of this harrowing time.
What the Indian Constitution guarantees;
Echoing the words of Equality, Liberty and Justice that traces the very beginning of Indian Constitution, somewhere today it stands as mere words.
• Article 14. Article 15 speaks about the prohibition of discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
• Article 21 ensures right to privacy and personal dignity to all the citizens.
• Article 23 prohibits trafficking in human beings as beggars and other similar forms of forced labor and any contravention of these provisions shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
Section 377 of IPC
It criminalizes same sex relations among consenting adults. In Jayalakshmi v. State of Tamil Nadu, Pandian, a transgender, was arrested on charges of theft by the police. He was sexually assaulted in the police station which ultimately led him to immolate himself.
The judgement of Court in famous Koushal’s case notes that Section 377, though associated with specific sexual acts, speaks of only certain identities, including Hijras. It also recognises that it has has been used as an instrument of harassment and physical abuse against Hijras and transgender individual.
The judgment only says that this amounts to a misuse of the Section as opposed to what it actually dictates, thus refusing to meaningfully apply a fundamental rights analysis to it.
Now we have a clearly contradictory finding.
It argues against Koushal’s infamous ‘miniscule minority’argument noting that Transgenders even though insignificant in numbers, are still human beings and therefore they have every right to enjoy their human rights.
The Court finds that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity violates Article 14, and that transgenders are extremely vulnerable to harassment, violence and sexual assault in public spaces, at home and in jail, also by the police. If we are to read this with their finding that 377 is used to harass and physically abuse transgender persons, we can clearly make the link that 377 fails the litmus test of equality under the Constitution.
From Hindu Mythology to Islamic culture Transgender have always played a vital role, rising from the dilemmas of the acceptance and discriminations, transgender community looks forward for a more empathic society standing on the core pillar of equality for all. No Constitution can ever be bigger than the conscience of individuals, it is time to introspect into the ground realities of the society and implementation of the rights, maybe then we can someday call ourselves as a progressive citizen of a progressive nation.
A special Thanks to Ms.Pratikshya Priyadarshini for sharing her paper on this specific topic.