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Transgender Bill Fails To Change The Social Status Of The Community

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Veera, a student pursuing her Masters from a reputed university in Bihar, lives in her little one-room flat in a rickety building surrounded by flowing nallahs and hustle-bustle of the busy neighborhood of Patna. No one wants to let her their house on rent because for them she is just another hijra who begs money with that sharp clap. She begs in train. She also dresses in mini-skirts for launda dance where she locks herself in cage and dance to the high decibel item numbers just to entertain men around him. This is how she earns a livelihood. Does her family support her? She is from Madhya Pradesh, left her home for a better life in Patna. Her father and brother think she is an embarrassment to the society. Her mother was the only one who understood her and cared for her until she passed away; making her alone on this earth. So, she has to pay the room rent, feed herself, fund her hormone therapy and meet the other basic necessities all by herself. There was an instance when she was abused by a boy in her university campus and she was beaten with a Pepsi glass bottle whose mark can be seen on her face. Veera’s story reflects the harsh realities of many like her whose identity threatens their life.

You can spot many Veeras on trains and buses, roads or in front of your house with that sharp clap. They come to bless your child or bless any auspicious event. We pay them whatsoever they demand, willingly or unwillingly. Many accuse them of extorting in the name of blessing. But, do we really know anything about these trans-women whom we call hijra, eunuch, kinnar, etc.; What do we know about them? For centuries, the trans-women community has been remained ostracized from our concept of the mainstream society. Blame it on the society that labels a person in gender binaries- that is either a person is a male and or female. The Transgender Bill, 2018, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 17, 2018, was supposed to integrate the community into the ‘mainstream society’ where they can enjoy their rights. According to the Bill, a transgender will be granted the identity certificate issued by the District Magistrate only after a thorough screening which involves Chief Medical Officer, District Welfare Officer, Psychologist or Psychiatrist, Representative of Transgender community and an Officer from the Government.  In India, people face unpleasant tides of distress while applying for Aadhaar card or driving license and in the present condition of our bureaucracy, one can imagine that the whole screening process for the sake of identity will be even more tedious.

The 2018 Bill also contradicts apex court’s judgment which states that the trans-community do not need anyone’s acknowledgment as a person’s gender identity by saying that any people from trans-community who wish to identify either as a man or a woman has to go through a sex reassignment surgery. Moreover, the Bill states begging to be a crime. In India, begging has not been criminalised. In August 2018, Delhi High Court turned down several provisions of Bombay’s Prevention of Begging Act by labeling them as unconstitutional and saying that “criminalizing begging” violates the fundamental rights of some of the most vulnerable people living in our society. Thus the criminalization of begging by a transgender person shows the transphobic face of our lawmakers who drafted this transphobic Bill.

In 2017, a Parliamentary Panel did a favor of reservation for transgenders. However in the draft of the 2016 Bill, it was dropped because of protest by OBC groups who feared that their share in quota will get diluted. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva introduced The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill in Rajya Sabha as a Private Member Bill, the first to be passed after 45 long years, mentioned an assured 2% reservation for trans-community in jobs and education. The 2018 Bill is largely modeled around this but the major difference is that the 2% reservation is totally wiped out by the Government from its Bill.  The need of the hour is right to equality of opportunity to the transgender community so that no Veeras have to go in trains and beg, get assaulted in colleges and universities or dance inside a cage to earn a living. In our society filled with stereotypes where discrimination and atrocities against Dalits is an epidemic, equality and no-discrimination policy in the workplace and educational institutions are merely illusions. Babita, an LGBTQ activist from Bihar says, “When you see a transman, you may think him to be a girl. But when you see a trans-woman like me, you will think that I am a man draped in saree and this offends you. Thus I become an object of ridicule. So, in such a scenario, how can we talk about gender-neutral toilets (as the world is advocating). Our fight is about acceptance and inclusion. In such a situation, the Transgender Rights Bill is just a joke.”

However, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018 has several loopholes. Several  LGBT activists have staged their protests to oppose the bill that has done little to nothing to change their social status. Certainly steps like welfare schemes for transgender persons or setting up of a National Council for Transgender Persons are some of the constructive steps taken by the Government to acknowledge the identity of transgender. But as someone who witnessed their lives so closely, I firmly believe that these people deserve to be judged more than their sharp clap or begging money or dancing in cages. Today, Veera aims to work for society and hopes to be a documentary filmmaker. We have several remarkable trans-women like Satyashri Sharmila, Manabi Bandopadhyay, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and many more who fought against all odds and established themselves as the powerful voices of our society. There is a need for dialogue so that we can discuss how can we include the interest of our transgender community in our mainstream conventional society, and I believe that this movement around Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018 will play a crucial role in empowering millions like Veera who do not fall into the binaries of gender.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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