This Sunday morning, on the program called the Sunday Debate on Republic TV, a leading English news channel had a debate on Section 377. What prompted the discussion? Over the past week 3 separate incidents of discrimination against the LGBT community have been under reported.
These incidents have taken place in the cities of Kochi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. In separate incidents in Kochi and Mumbai, individuals of the transgender community were harassed by the police. There were also attempts to molest them. In the other incident from Bengaluru a lesbian woman was fired from her job after her story was aired on television by a local media channel.
But what struck me was the fear and despair of the transgender victim to fight her case. It portrays the alienation of the community from mainstream of the society. They are called ‘kinnar’ or ‘hijra’ giving them a separate social identity morally considered taboo.
In contemporary discourse the words ‘kinnar’ or ‘hijra’ are used as derogatory terms. It is a form of mental abuse on boys and men who do not conform to societal norms of patriarchy. Effeminate men and members of the gay community are its usual victims.
The fear and lack of information on alternative sexual identities has created a visceral hatred for the LGBT community. Ostracization of this community has harmed the transgenders the most. Though their blessings are considered auspicious according to the Hindu religion, they are still viewed through suspicious eyes.
As a result, they are systematically denied their rights. They are denied opportunities to work and earn their livelihood. Educational institutes shut their doors on them; denying them the basic right of education. Socially excluded from participating in day-to-day activities they are denied the right to live with dignity.
The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 was seen as a silver living by the transgender community when it was passed by the upper house, Rajya Sabha on 24 April 2015. The bill as of date is pending in the lower house, Lok Sabha since it was introduced on 26 February 2016. The sluggish approach of the government on the bill reflects the importance attached to the plight of the transgender community.
But why is that the gender-queer, the effeminate men and the gay community throng to join the ‘hijra’ community to lead a life comfortable with their sexual orientation? Is it not a compromise to undergo castration to lead a life one’s own choice? Why is acceptance from loved ones deprived when a persons’ sexual identity does not conform to the societal norms? These are pertinent questions which we as a society should answer.
The lack of acceptance by both family and society removes the option of choice for the person. The parents and relatives themselves sometimes hand over children, who they believe will not conform to the societal norms of sexuality to the transgender community of India known as ‘hijras’ to become eunuchs. Adults joining the community too undergo castration as an initiation ritual into the community.
To be forcibly castrated to lead a life more comfortable with your gender identity and still be ostracised is too harsh. Western societies are far more sensitized to sex and sexuality. The acceptance levels there are a lot higher. Transgender people there receive emotional and medical support during the whole procedure. They are provided with hormones and are offered the option of gender reassignment surgery and facial reconstruction. Be it male-to-female or female-to-male.
Back home in India sexuality is still a taboo subject. Though there is an increase in awareness the LGBT community is frowned upon. Transgender people in India too should be given the choice to decide their future. Castration should not be the identity of India’s transgender community.