Shatter the Silence

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Rapes and physical assaults faced by transgenders and hijras are more common than one would like to admit, especially in a country like India wherein patriarchal norms and machismo idea of manhood is deep rooted within our very culture. Absence of gender-sensitive laws and poor enforcement of whatever few are there, coupled with limited opportunities for transgenders to stand up for themselves have allowed hate crimes to persist, especially among those transgenders engaged in sex work. More often than not, these incidences go unreported as laws against rape are unclear for transgender people.

One such story is of Mahi, a transwoman, whose life has been fraught with difficulty and peril. Poverty, discrimination and lack of employment opportunities forced her to start work as a sex worker. One day on her way to work, she faced violence at the hands of a few local goons who gang-raped her as well as robbed all her money. They also beat her up so badly that she broke her arms. Mahi reported this incident to Wajood outreach worker over phone. Immediately, the Wajood outreach worker reached her place, and she was provided necessary medical support through Basera, an NGO working on transgender rights in North Delhi. The team worked closely with her and provided support through counselling, unconditional positive regard and active listening so that she could overcome the incident. Recognizing the legal limitations of the country with respect to transgender rapes and taking cognizance of the fact that in India police complaints hardly ever lead to substantive punishment, the team worked with the goons of the area, and sensitized them on “trans” issues so that such horrific incidents are not repeated. Their efforts led to the goons returning Mahi’s money and promising never to repeat this!

Unfortunately, Mahi’s experience is common among transgenders in India. Despite the progressive judgement of the Supreme Court of India in April 2014 which includes special recommendations for violence mitigation against and protection to transgender, violence against transgenders has not ceased. What is crucial now is more focussed and intensive intervention on crisis mitigation that enables a supportive climate for transgenders in India.

Acknowledging this, Alliance India has put foremost importance to crisis mitigation as the central pillar of the Wajood project, as implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance and supported by Amplify Change since November 2015. The project actively provides crisis related support to transgender/hijra community in the five Indian states, namely Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Through Wajood, we pledge to promote rights and dignity of all transgenders. We hope you do your bit, and raise your voice against such injustices. Support our struggle to make trans people’s lives and rights matter!

The author of this post, Simran Shaikh, is a committed transgender activist and serves as a Senior Programme Officer for the Wajood project at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi.

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