Afternoon Voice

Society must not indulge in moral policing

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Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a renowned transgender rights activist and a popular Bharatnatyam dancer who is the first person to represent Asia Pacific in the UN in 2008. She is working hard to change people’s mindset about the transgender community and bringing them into the mainstream society. In a chat with Afternoon Voice Correspondent Mohit Soman, she has spoken about the challenges faced by the transgender community and various initiatives taken by her for their upliftment.

You are a face of the LGBT Community; do you think this identity gives you more energy to fight for the welfare of sexual minorities?

I fight for the rights of LGBT Community. It is my right to live my life to the fullest and I never suppressed my identity. I create awareness about the same in the community and educate people. It gives me more energy to interact with them. We fought for our recognition as transgender and our community didn’t have recognition in India as the third gender till 2014. I wrote a Marathi book ‘Mi hijda Mi Laxmi’ to express myself and it is also published in English and Gujarati.

Do you believe in the concept of ‘Life is beautiful beyond all genders’? How was your childhood?

Life is definitely beautiful. God has given us one life to live it to the fullest. God has created us for one specific purpose. You, I and everyone have to play one or other role in our lives.

On paper, constitutional authority is identifying ‘Kinnar’ Community as the third gender but why do you think society has not accepted them and they are struggling to get housing and employment?

The society does not want to accept the Kinnar Community that existed from the ancient times. During the British reign, we were sidelined even in the tribal act, British criminalised as for indulging in ‘unnatural acts against the order of nature’. Why is the society passing judgements against me when God is not judging me? I am very lucky because my parents always supported me. I urge all parents to support their children.

Kinnars command respect in the Hindu mythology but BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said it is against “Hindutva“. What is your take on it?

Why do you call Hindu mythology? Why don’t you mention about Quran Mythology and Bible Mythology? Crimininalisation of homosexuality was imposed during the colonial era. In Manusmruti and other books, it was written that if you indulge in any kind of sex; you should wake up and bath with cold water. We should revisit our history. If we are talking about sexuality Kamashashtra is an ancient approach to look at these things. We celebrated each and every aspect of life. We worship God, trees, and animals. The government has started recognising transgenders as the third gender and is supporting them.

Supreme Court is yet to deliver judgement on the demand for the abolition of Article 377. What are your expectations from the human rights perspective?

I believe in the Constitution and have faith in the Supreme Court which has agreed to review Article 377. I expect that the Apex Court will deliver amicable judgment. We are fighting for our rights. Why do we want to criminalise the section 377 by calling it unnatural? I think we should not indulge in moral policing.

Since LGBT Community is undergoing mental pressure and is also infected with Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD), do you think NGO’s are failing somewhere to create health awareness?

Sexual pressure cannot be inclined to mental pressure. As per international standards, homosexuality is not criminalised and it is a natural aspect. Not only the transgender community but even heterosexuals and ordinary people get infected with sexually transmitted diseases. NGOs are working to create awareness among people about the prevention of transmission of HIV.

Why did you oppose the state government’s decision to impose a ban on dance bars?

After banning dance bars, girls working there were forced to take up prostitution activities as there is no other alternative available for them to earn their livelihood. It was unfortunate to find girls indulging in such activities. Hence, I had strongly opposed the government’s decision.

Higher Education is a must for the development of the LGBT Community. Has the government framed enough policies to support your needs?

Education is necessary for the growth of an individual. Education is not necessarily academics; it can be any kind of knowledge. Education is the best thing in the world to pursue knowledge and paves way for the creation of responsible citizens. The government can create awareness among people about sex education so they will be aware of the rights of sexual minorities. Sex education should be included in school syllabus.

How was your experience to represent Asia–Pacific at a UN task meeting in 2008 and the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne?

It was a wonderful experience. I was the first transgender to represent the Asia–Pacific region at the UN office. It gives me an immense pleasure to be a part of such a cause to represent sexual minorities.

Are your aspirations, priorities, and dream more personal or more for the welfare of the LGBT Community? What are your new projects in the pipeline?

I want to create awareness among people about the transgender community. Discrimination is meted against them and it should stop. Apart from our rights, we deserve respect, dignity, and integrity from the society. So, I expect that mainstream people should raise their voice against discrimination against transgenders.

What was the motivation behind your intention to start ‘Astitva’ foundation?

Astitva foundation was started in 1998 for the welfare of the transgender community. One of its founder members passed away, so I took over the initiative for the welfare of the transgender community in 2006. We are working towards including them in mainstream society.

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