Hijras advocate for equality, celebrate Hijra Habba

New Delhi: Stakeholders from government, media, policy bodies, the transgender and hijra
community, and civil society came together today for the first National Hijra Habba. The
event was organised by Pehchan, a five-year programme that strengthens and builds the
capacity of 200 community-based organizations in 17 states to advance HIV prevention.
The national consultation discussed efforts to achieve equality for transgenders and hijras
and drew attention to the significant challenges faced by these communities.

Addressing the event, Gauri Sawant, General Secretary, Transgender and Hijra Welfare
Board, Maharashtra said: “In India, cases of violence go unreported as the present social
and legal environment is oppressive towards transgender persons and hijras. Due to their
different gender identity, they are denied opportunities to earn a living, to study, and to
access health services. Even changing their names and sex in official documents is not
easy.”

Pehchan collaborates with India’s National AIDS Control Programme and reaches 453,750
MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015 and is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant
to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

Held at Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, the Hijra Habba included speeches, experience sharing and
community performances by leaders from transgender and hijra community. In-depth
discussions were held on issues including social entitlements, legal status, violence,
economic vulnerabilities, and feminization.

At the heart of the event was the development of an action plan for advocacy for the next
three years on priority issues for these communities. Ms. Aradhana Johri, Additional
Secretary, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), affirmed the importance of these
populations to the national HIV prevention strategy and acknowledged the need for
continued effort to control the epidemic among transgenders and hijras.

According to James Robertson, Country Director, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, “India has been a
global leader in defining an effective HIV prevention response for transgenders and hijras.
The world has much to learn from this example. While progress has been made, the journey
towards equality for transgenders and hijras is not yet over.”

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