The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and Department of Law, Gauhati University organized a National Workshop on transgender issues to discuss about law and policy pertaining to the transgender population.
I was invited to participate and present the issues and problems of the community at various levels - the social, educational, political and ecomomic situation of the Indian transgender population.
On the panel included U.Sarath Chandran, Member Secretary, National Legal Services Authority, Honourable Mr. Justice Amitava Roy, Judge, Gauhati High court (Executive chairman of Assam State Legal Services Authority), Honorable Dr. Justice A.H.Saikia, Chairman, Assam Human Rights Commission and Prof. O.K Medhi, Vice Chancellor, Gauhati University were some of the prominent people who came together for the noble cause.
In his address, U.Sarath Chandran said that the transgender people are so vulnerable. 'They can be easily caught to fill up the targeted number of police cases per month. They are easily vulnerable. Though being a citizen of this country, having all the rights, guaranteed by constitution of India, a transgender is excluded. Most of the legal difficulties are faced by transgenders only in India".
In his inaugural speech, Honourable Mr. Justice Amitava Roy said, "There is no law in India which recognizes their gender. India doesn't have a law to recognize. There is no bar as well. Therefore, they are left in the lurch. They are everywhere, yet they are nowhere. Even if there is no law, we have the constitution of India. What have we given to them? Justice? Liberty? Equality of status in opportunities? In the case of transgenders, focus and undivided attention is neccessary. The challenges are many. The most formidable is the inner challenge within ourselves to accept them".
Honorable Dr. Justice A.H.Saikia who is the Chairman of Assam Human Rights Commission in his statement said "You have gathered here for a right cause, at the right moment. I assure that we will start campaigning for the rights of transgender people".
I was one of the panelist in the afternoon session sharing the dias with Justice I.A.Ansari, Mr.A.F.A Bora, Member secretary, Assam State Legal Services Authority and Asstt.Prof. Dr.S.Deka of the department of Law, Gauhati University.
I gave a presentation on the issues and problems of the transgender/hijra communities in India which covered topics including family acceptance, discrimination transgender teens face in schools and colleges, the stigma in public places, the lack of livelihood opportunities, the issues of marriage and adoption, the problems in documentation, the huan rights violations of the polics, the lack of medical and healthcare services available to the transgender/hijra population and how the legal recognition is so important for the upliftment of our community. I shared my own story quoting my experiences as a transgender child in schools and the stigma I faced in college and the social exploitation which I have gone through so many times in my life, which happens even now to me without even my own knowledge.
The seminar hall was filled with students, media people, lawyers, professors and judges. I was the only transgender community representative there. I hope transpeople from the North east will soon have that liberty and freedom from stigma to be bold and courageous and voice for themselves. Until then, I am voicing for them.
NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) will soon file a petition in the supreme court for the legal recognition of the transgender people which will lead to revolutionary recommendations from the supreme court of India for the welfare of the supposed 'others' - the transgender / hijra / intersex people of India.
The only two places I visited in Gauhati were the Balaji temple where I met Tamil poojaris and the Umanandeshwar temple in the middle of the Bramaputra river. I came back to Chennai with much satisfaction because I had done my best to represent my community in the North east states of India.