February 24, 2018

CHALLENGES FOR TRANS PERSONS IN INDIA – HEALTH, EDUCATION EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE

“People have had the privilege of choice to make personal changes. They dyed their hair and dieted themselves to near death. They took steroids to build muscles and got breast implants and nose jobs so they’d resemble their favorite movie stars. They changed names, majors, jobs, husbands and wives. They changed religions and political parties. They moved across the country or the world — even changed nationalities. Why was gender the one sacred thing we weren’t supposed to change? Who made that rule?”

Transgender or Transperson is a term which is used to describe a person whose gender identity or gender expression differs from their biological sex. It has been several years since the NALSA judgement, yet trans persons in India continue to face a myriad of problems.

A serious flaw of the Indian Education system is that it does not facilitate skill acquisition. While moving further up the grades, many students drop out and the learning gap increases thus leading to unproductive workforce in the community. Many trans persons fall in this category and instead, provision of skill based education, can help these glaring gaps. Education is a right for every person in India upto the age of 14 and the same is afforded to trans persons. Sensitization in schools towards trans persons, working with organizations in the education sector to promote transgender rights and mainstream efforts by the University Grants Commission and Central and State Education Boards are ways to assure inclusion of trans persons.[1]

There has been no formal recognition of education for trans persons in India but there has been a wave of change that can be seen in society. States and activist groups have undertaken objectives to provide quality education. Initiatives and stories such as the Sahaj International School in Kerala, opening up Delhi University to transgender students in 2014 and Manabi Bandhopadhyay becoming the first transgender college principal in Krishnanagar Women’s College in Kolkata prove the slow progressive change in India is shaping up.[2]  Many colleges and universities provide for admissions to trans persons and allow for options for them to mark their gender identity.

Trans persons face a lot of difficulty while accessing health care services and there have been numerous incidents to suggest inappropriate behavior and discrimination displayed towards them.[3] Refusal of care, solely, for the reason of being a trans person is a major problem as of today. Further harassment and violence, which includes physical attacks, assaults and harassments in the EMT’s, also stand as a deterrence to avail proper healthcare. Hospitals and medical staff also are unaware as to how to treat transgender people and to meet their needs as there is lack of treatment awareness. The health vulnerabilities, mainly include diseases such as HIV, rectal gonorrhea, syphilis, rectal chlamydia and various forms of sexually transmitted diseases. The major barrier that arises out of discrimination is also widespread during the transition related care. Defining a trans person through the surgical status should not be promoted and it is the duty of every medical professional to prevent this sort of behavior.[4]

The main question regarding work comes into picture when the legal recognition of the transperson is in question. Identity documents are important to avail basic civil rights such as right to vote, right to education, inheritance rights, health and public services, inheritance rights etc.[1] Hiring biases, on the job discrimination, wage inequalities, lack of legal recourses, inability to access documents and denied benefits stand in the way of employment opportunities for trans persons. Apart from the freedom from harassment at workplaces, equal access to the benefits at the workplace should be promoted so that trans persons can live a productive and healthy life.[2]

The discrimination faced by a trans person has remained an important concern for human rights activists in India. The stigma the community faces leads to lack of opportunities and a cyclical form of exclusion from benefits and acceptance. The repercussions of this are lack of proper school education and harassment. Consequently, this leads to a scenario where begging and sex work become the only options to earn and survive. Being forced into sex work puts them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and takes away their agency over their bodies along with violating their fundamental rights. Trans persons continue to remain among the marginalized sections of society, here inclusion becomes one of the greatest challenges. [3]

It is to be argued and supported by each and every one of us, the importance of equating transgender rights with human rights. The right to health, work, love, pray, education and to stay connected with others, should be the prerogative of every individual, without attached terms and conditions.

*One Future Collective is the outreach partner for the Trans Diamond Festival. This article series, across platforms, is a result of the ongoing effort of Make Room India and One Future Collective to discuss issues of the transgender community and build an ecosystem towards strengthening the trans rights movement in India.

[1]Asmy, VS Shinu, and P. Nagaraj. “PRELIMINARY PROBLEMS FACED IN EDUCATING THE THIRD GENDER COMMUNITY.” Asia Pacific Journal of Research, Vol: I. Issue XXVII (2015).

[2] “Indias First Transgender College Principle Takes Charge”, The Hindu, June 09, 2015.

[3] McBride, Ruari-Santiago. “Healthcare issues for transgender people living in Northern Ireland”. Belfast: Institute for Conflict Research (2011).

[4] Grant, Jaime M., et al. “National transgender discrimination survey report on health and health care.” Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (2010).

[5] Chakrapani, Venkatesan. “Hijras/transgender women in India: HIV, human rights and social exclusion.” UNDP India (2010).

[6] HRC Staff, Transgender Workers at Greater Risk for Unemployment and Poverty, Human Rights Campaign, (2013).

[7] Sinha, Sreoshi. “Social Exclusion of Transgender in the Civil Society: A Case Study of the Status of the Transgender in Kolkata.” International Journal of Sociology, Social Anthropology and Social Policy 2.1 (2016).

by Malavika Rajkumar*

Malavika is a volunteer researcher at One Future Collective.*

Photo by H Heyerlein on Unsplash

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