The Challenges faced by Transpersons in India
First published at NewsnViews.
“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?”
Trans person 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 myriad 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, leading to an unproductive workforce in the community. Many trans persons fall into this category and the provision of skill-based education can help close these glaring gaps. Education is a right for every person in India up to the age of 14 and the same is afforded to trans persons. Sensitisation in schools towards trans persons, working with organisations 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.
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, Delhi University opening up to transgender students in 2014 and Manabi Bandhopadhyay becoming the first transgender college Principal in Krishnanagar Women’s College in Kolkata prove that progressive change in India is slowly shaping up. Many colleges and universities provide for admissions to trans persons and allow options for them to mark their gender identity.
Trans persons face a lot of difficulties while accessing health care services and there have been numerous incidents to suggest inappropriate behaviour and discrimination displayed towards them. Refusal of care, solely, for the reason of being a trans person is a major problem as of today. Further, harassment and violence — including physical attacks, assault and harassment in the EMT’s — also stand as a deterrent to avail proper healthcare. Hospitals and medical staff also are unaware as to how to treat transgender people, and how to meet their needs, as there is a lack of treatment awareness. The health vulnerabilities include diseases such as HIV, rectal gonorrhoea, syphilis, rectal chlamydia and various forms of sexually transmitted diseases. The major barriers that arise out of discrimination are also widespread and present during transition-related care. Defining a trans person through their surgical status should not be promoted and it is the duty of every medical professional to prevent this sort of behaviour.
The main question regarding work comes into picture when the legal recognition of the trans person is in question. Identity documents are important to avail basic civil rights such as the right to vote, right to education, inheritance rights, health and public services, etc. Hiring biases, on-the-job discrimination, wage inequalities, lack of legal resources, inability to access documents and denied benefits stand in the way of employment opportunities for trans persons. Apart from stopping harassment at workplaces, equal access to benefits at the workplace should also be promoted, so that trans persons can live a productive and healthy life.
The discrimination faced by trans people has remained an important concern for human rights activists in India. The stigma that the trans community faces leads to a 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 transpeople at the 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 marginalised sections of society. It is here that inclusion becomes one of the greatest challenges.
The need to equate transgender rights with human rights is only growing and rightfully so.
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.
Feature Image Credit: h heyerlein on Unsplash
Malavika Rajkumar is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.
 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).
 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).