Shubha Chacko, an activist from the NGO Aneka, spoke to the audience about her personal experiences while working and interacting with the transgender community, giving the audience a glimpse of their lives.
She pointed out that the word used for ‘police’ was one that could also be translated to fear, pointing to their old and painful relationship with the law. In the kind of circumstances that a large number of the transgender community live in, the law always works against them because it sanctions violence, brutality and exploitation by those who have power. It acts as a shield for their oppressors who are not held accountable for their actions.
As a result, this oppression has become a naturalised part of their lives. As Shubha Chacko pointed out, for activism to create change, it has to start with negotiations on the legal front, since the legal framework itself does not properly accommodate transgender and transsexual individuals.
The case of Kokila, a transgender woman who was gang raped while in police custody in Bangalore, was the starting point of outrage and activism on behalf of the community. Shubha and others like her have been actively interacting with the community, while police officials and locals to attempt to work out a harmonious coexistence.
Even while the behaviour of the police towards the transgender community has improved greatly since the incident that involved Kokila, there are new problems which have arisen. For instance, a number of transgender individuals have arbitrarily been charged with murder or other crimes. In many ways, the transgender community continues to be one of the easiest targets of police violence, and are still quite vulnerable to police action.
Shubha pointed out that there is now a strong community of transgenders, transsexuals, other sexual minorities and activists who help and support each other in cases of exploitation. In pointing out the exploitation of the transgender community, Shubha explained that it is not just about the physical trauma inflicted on the transgender community. The more fundamental problem is that the feeling of being a legal citizen with full rights is denied to them. For instance, they have many problems getting official documentation such as passports or licenses which leads to them not being employed since they are not registered. This is an issue that continues to be one the more pressing challenges that NGOs have to deal with.
Report by: Ishani Debroy