Transgender Community is mulling to Press NOTA button in Election

Kolkata transgender community is annoyed with the Trinamool government led by Mamata Banerjee. She denied a Lok Sabha ticket to a transgender candidate who would have been an ideal candidate to raise our voice in the Parliament.

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The transgender community in Kolkata has expressed its strong discontent with the Trinamool government and is ready to lend its support to any political party who fights for their issues in the parliament.

“The state government has done virtually nothing for us after making tall promises for our welfare. The community has been still struggling for its basic rights. We are not against any political party but would support those who will take up our issues in the parliament,” said Ranjita Sinha, secretary of Association of Transgender/Hijra in Bengal in an event organized to celebrate Transgender day.

A meeting of transgender group

The community celebrates 15 April as transgender day every yearto commemorate the landmark National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) judgment of Supreme Court of 2014 that recognizes the fundamental and civil rights of transgender persons. The judgment gave broad directives to the Central and state governments on affirmative action, public health, social welfare and other services to be made available for transgender people.

But the community members are extremely disheartenedwith the West Bengal government and they claim that the government has not implemented the NALSA judgment and formation of Transgender Development Board (TBD) has been nothing more than an eye-washer.

In 2015, the state government with much fanfare had declared the constitution of Transgender Development Board to look into the problems faced by the community.

The board was headed by a chairperson appointed by the state cabinet and had 12 members and representatives from various transgender communities, “We will hand them out I-cards, look after their health and education and ensure overall development which is their right”, State Minister Sashi Panja had said while announcing its formation.

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The minister who was also the chairperson of the board had also laid emphasis on the accurate census of the community.

But the board members say that nothing has been done for them and just 18-20 meetings of the board has been held over the past three years against a monthly meeting decided by the board at its inception.

“Our problems cannot be solved by outsiders. The board should have members exclusively of our community and the chairperson should be selected from among us. We were mulling to press the NOTA button during the upcoming polls but it isn’t a correct decision for us because political parties after returning to power will threaten us and will not work for us. The chief minister of the state herself being a woman never spared a thought for us.  She should have given a Lok Sabha ticket to a trans candidate who would have been an ideal candidate to raise our voice in the Parliament,” added Ranjita who is also the board member.

She refused to show any political affiliation but said the twin reliefs for the trans community–NALSA judgement and decriminalization of Section 377 by the apex court– came during the BJP rule in the centre. “Both the judgments have come during the saffron party rule in the centre but the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, is still gathering dust in the corridors of the power.”

Trans activist Neha Mukherjee

“We consider the judgement day to be our birthday as the highest court of land gave us identity and rights to walk with heads high. We thought that it would usher into a new life for us and change the outlook of thepeople but the changes have so far been very minimal and the society continues to look down upon us,” said Jiya Das, the country’s first transgender OT technician who works in a private hospital in Kolkata.

She recalled her horrific story how she faced discrimination and humiliation at every step of her life before achieving her dream.

The last Census of the trans community that was done in 2011 had pegged their numbers to be 30,349 in West Bengal.  But those working with the community opine that over one lakh transgender and Hijra live in the state.

“The Census is unrealistic as the population is much more than in official records. During the Census, we had asked the government to take a member of the community along with them while doing the survey as they would be in a better position to identify the others in a family as it is still considered as a taboo in society if any male or female member has the opposite sexual tendencies. The government officials refused to listen to us and the Census proved to be a complete bogus,” said Aparna Banerjee, who runs Samarth, a non-profit for the community based in Hooghly district.

Also Read : Recognise our legal gender and let’s make a trans inclusive world: Jannat Ali

Raina Roy who is trying to create awareness among the community in rural Bengal through her organization, Samabhabona says that a slight change is visible in the mindset of the people but complete transformation will take time, “We organize street shows along with College and University students to create awareness among people. They are responding towards our rights but it is a time taking process. Everything cannot change overnight.”

The community members rue that even basic facility like separate toilets and health facilities have not been arranged for them, “The government had promised to build separate toilets for us but still nothing has been done and we are often turned away from public toilets. It is a major inconvenience for working transgender. The doctors in hospitals often refuse to treat us as they find it difficult to decide to admit us in male or female wards. There should be separate wards for us. Even in educational institutions, our members face discrimination, said Neha Mukherjee who begs in trains for her living in the city.

The state government, however, assured that it is serious about their issues,“We are doing our best to address their grievances. The priority is to build separate toilets for them. All the issues would be sorted one by one. Funds are also a constraint for us. But the government is serious about them,” said a senior TMC leader requesting anonymity.