Gone with the Wind: A Year of Rights for Transgenders

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On April 15th 2014, India witnessed a historic victory for the Third Gender movement. The Supreme Court of India recognized transgenders as the “Third Gender” and protected our rights.

The Court gave specific directions to central and state governments to provide medical and other facilities for transgenders. Reservations in education and public employment were also required to reduce stigma and discrimination towards people of the Third Gender.

But rather than make sincere efforts to address the current absence of any substantial social support for transgenders, the Government of India filed a clarification petition to the Supreme Court for further direction. So while the 2014 judgment has been passed, it is to date only on paper and has not been translated in spirit or in fact to improve the lives of transgenders.

The government’s clarification petition claims that the ruling “may pose problems both practically and politically” and “seeks to create an ambiguity” regarding entitlement to benefits. This has stalled the entire process of transgender welfare in states.

While India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has insisted that the government was not trying to stall the ruling, Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Law Network told the Wall Street Journal, “The government is stonewalling. They had no intention of implementing this judgment.”

The doors opened against discrimination, injustice, and social exclusion of transgenders, but we are still awaiting equal opportunity. But even so, there is progress. The President of India, the central and state government officials, political parties, judiciary, media, civil society organisations, friends, and family members came with one voice to support the judgment.

In my home Karnataka, as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, the state government undertook a process to develop a policy framework on transgender issues starting in June and ending in August 2014. The document was submitted the state’s Department of Women and Child Development. After six months of constant pressure, follow up, consultations, and lobbying with political leaders, the Government of Karnataka accepted the policy.

Across India, in spite of the small steps that have been taken, most state governments have not acted and wait in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s response to the clarification petition, further delaying the timeline to bring transgenders into the mainstream. Frustrated and angry, transgender communities are left waiting and wondering:

Why do I still face discrimination in public spaces?
Where is the facility for my education?
Where is my employment?
Where is the right of my health?
Why are we still arrested?
Why are we still on the streets?
Why do people still laugh?

So many issues are coming to the forefront, and there are no answers so far! While a powerful judgment secured the rights of India’s transgender community a year ago, action on ground is gone with the wind!
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The author of this post is Akkai Padmashali, a transgender activist in Karnataka, India.

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