Looking at the very limited employment opportunities various state governments are coming up with innovative job openings for Transgender. Transgenders, who are striving hard to find a place in mainstream society, will soon turn entrepreneurs in Kerala with the launch of a taxi service which will be owned and operated by them, a first in the state.
After unveiling the first Transgender Policy in the country with an aim to end societal stigma towards the Transgender (TG) community, the Kerala state government is now getting ready to launch ‘Gender Taxi’, owned and operated by transgenders. The objective of ‘G-Taxi’ programme is to provide a better means for livelihood for the minority group and to ensure them non-discriminatory treatment in society. The state-run Gender Park, under the Department of Social Justice, has drawn up a programme to roll out G-Taxi on the model of its successful all-women cab network She-Taxi.
If She-Taxi has targeted mainly women commuters, ‘G-Taxi’ is envisaged as an ‘equality taxi’, in which all travellers, irrespective of their gender, can avail service. If everything goes as planned, the first fleet of G-Taxi cabs will be rolled out in Kerala this March. Government of Kerala is doing good, generating jobs for this community and bringing them in mainstream through various schemes is good initiative. Really, this is what they needed at the moment.
The main problems that are being faced by the transgender community are of discrimination, unemployment, lack of educational facilities, homelessness, lack of medical facilities like HIV care and hygiene, depression, hormone pill abuse, tobacco and alcohol abuse, penectomy, marriage and adoption. In 1994, transgenders received the voting rights but the task of issuing them voter identity cards got caught up into the male or female debate. Several of them were denied ID cards with sexual category of their choice. The other fields where this community feels neglected are inheritance of property or adoption of a child. They are often pushed to the periphery as a social outcaste and many of them end up in begging and dancing. Even some caught in the trap of pimps and human trafficking. Sometimes running out of all options to feed themselves, they even engage themselves as sex workers for survival.
Most families do not accept their male child if he starts behaving like a feminine or inappropriate to the expected gender role. Consequently, family members may threaten, scold or even assault their son/sibling from behaving or dressing-up like a girl or woman. Some parents may outright disown and evict their own child for crossing the prescribed gender norms of the society and for not fulfilling the roles expected from a male child. Parents may provide several reasons for doing so: bringing disgrace and shame to the family; diminished chances of their child getting married to a woman in the future and thus end of their generation (if they have only one male child); and perceived inability on the part of their child to take care of the family. Thus, later transgender women may find it difficult even to claim their share of the property or inherit what would be lawfully theirs. Sometimes, the child or teenager may decide to run away from the family not able to tolerate the discrimination or not wanting to bring shame to one’s family. Some of them may eventually find their way to Hijra communities. Many Hijras are uneducated and consequently find it difficult to get jobs. Moreover, it is hard to find people who employ Hijras/Transgender people. Some members of the society ridicule gender-variant people for being ‘different’ and they may even be hostile. Even from police, they face physical and verbal abuse, forced sex, extortion money and materials, and arrests on false allegations. Absence of protection from police means ruffians find Hijras as easy targets for extorting money and as sexual objects. A 2007 study documented that in the past one year, the percentage of those Hijras who reported: forced sex is 46%; physical abuse is 44%; verbal abuse is 56%; blackmail for money is 31% and threat to life is 24%.
Transgender face discrimination even in the healthcare settings. Types of discrimination reported by TG communities in the healthcare settings include: deliberate use of male pronouns in addressing Hijras; registering them as ‘males’ and admitting them in male wards; humiliation faced in having to stand in the male queue; verbal harassment by the hospital staff and co-patients; and lack of healthcare providers who are sensitive to and trained on providing treatment/care to transgender people and even denial of medical services. Discrimination could be due to transgender status, sex work, HIV status or a combination of these. Social welfare departments provide a variety of social welfare schemes for socially and economically disadvantaged groups. However, so far, no specific schemes are available for them except some rare cases of providing land for Aravanis in Tamil Nadu. Recently, the state government of Andhra Pradesh has ordered the Minority Welfare Department to consider ‘Hijras’ as a minority and develop welfare schemes for them. Stringent and cumbersome procedures and requirement of address proof, identity proof, and income certificate hinders even the deserving people from making use of available schemes. In addition, most TGs having no knowledge about social welfare schemes available for them. Only the Department of Social Welfare in the state of Tamil Nadu has recently established ‘Aravanigal/Transgender Women Welfare Board’ to address the social welfare issues of Aravanis/Hijras. No other state has replicated this initiative so far.
Now, Kerala has come up with brilliant idea of empowering transgenders. Let’s hope that the implementation of the scheme will be done with hundred per cent will.