Imagine one transgender women lodged among hundreds of male prisoners how much risk is involved to his/her life. Complaining would mean only one thing – get raped. Frustrated male prisoners can never be kind to them. They are subjected to all sorts of abuse. Not that they would not attack her otherwise, but being silent at least reduces the physical harm. There are hundreds of such horrors in the prison. The transgender prisoners regularly face mental and sexual assaults.
They have to live among several convicted and under trial prisoners, and jail staff – all men – of molesting and raping them. They drop complaint letters in the grievance box, placed under the vigilance of a closed-circuit TV (CCTV) camera and meant to be accessed only by the designated visiting magistrate. Similar complaints were also made to the prison superintendent. However, neither the prison authority nor judiciary came to their rescue. In 2020 petitioning the court or informing the lawyer became difficult as a lockdown was imposed and jail mulakat (visits) were abruptly stopped.
Finally, some relief five more Central jails in Maharashtra have been identified by the prison department for housing transgender inmates. At present, transgender persons apprehended from any part of the state are brought to three prisons – Thane, Yeravada and Nashik – and are kept in cells separate from male and female prisoners. Creating spaces for transgender inmates in more prisons would reduce the possibility of any overcrowding in future if their numbers were to rise. Further, it would become possible to lodge them in a facility closer to their hometown, making it easier for friends and family to visit. At least they can feel protected.
Understanding how transgender people, who committed criminal offenses and are detained in prison is real concern. They need counselling, they are already stigmatised by society by and large and in such circumstances when they commit crime and reach prison they are treated in human because their sexual orientation is not normal. For trans women who survive on traditional systems like badhai and mangti, being uprooted from their immediate ecosystem meant not just a loss of livelihood but also exposure to bodily threats. Attacks and public humiliation have been a common experience.
In jail, the transwomen were placed in a “separate ward” assigned only to those suffering from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, leprosy, scabies and HIV. The prisoners here are neglected, and so is the barrack and they would be in a constant fear of getting infected. Transgender woman needs constitutional provision to safeguard transgender women’s rights in prison? Are they not Indian citizens? Are they placed among male prisoners only to satiate the lust of prison officials and other prisoners? Government should grant them dignity to live in each circumstance.