While we celebrate our 71st Independence Day today, the third gender is yet to come to terms with the essence of ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. The question is how free are we if Transgender People are still denied their social, economic and political rights, privileges and resources.

Is 15th August merely a day of merriment, or a day to reflect, introspect and get sensitized towards issues of exclusion – say exclusion of transgender in our society?

 If the oppression of transgender people continues to be everyday reality, then time to think how far have we come in our journey towards freedom in the last 71 years of independence?

How much more are we going to harass transgender people to accept them and give them respect – in their own Indian society? When will transgender people live free from depression and fear?

How long will it take for transgender people to enjoy the essence of Life –  Freedom and Dignity?

The conspicuous absence of transgender as the third gender in our collective memory and conscience is most critical amongst the rest of contagious symptoms – and it has been carefully carried forward through generations to single out the third gender from becoming part of the mainstream. We are fine and happy seeing ‘them’ become a freak show on the streets, trains, films and in the rest of popular culture.

The Culture of policies 

Take the example of the famous slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ and how transgender people are missing from the umbrella of ‘sabka’. It rings a bell only for people from oppressed castes, religions, ethnic groups etc. Even in terms of gender, ‘sabka’ signifies female gender in public perception and that is precisely how the slogan is explained by the political dispensation. The unfortunate part is when, even we as a society, do not extend the idea of ‘sabka’ to the transgender people. This is despite the Constitution of India providing them with the right to freedom and yet the essence of freedom is not enjoyed fully by transgender people. A recent interaction with transgender people by IGSSS and its partner made it clear that they still have to fight oppression, abuse and discrimination from every part of the society. The question they kept asking was –

How do we respond when our own family and friends keep disowning us?

We were stoned and answerless. The life of transgender people is a daily battle as there is no acceptance anywhere and they are ostracized and ridiculed in our society.

Amartya Sen in ‘Development as Freedom’ (1999) uses the term ‘unfreedom’ for lack of freedom, and lack of even one freedom, say political freedom, results in a ‘state of poverty’. Therefore, poverty is not merely an economic experience, rather it is a holistic idea of the range of freedom and liberty one enjoys. But the light has started to show up; the darkness withdrawing, as it is always bound to withdraw.

Law played it part, it’s our mindsets now that has to do the job.

The Supreme Court of India recognized the third gender along with the male and female. “Recognition of Transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue”. It includes the right to life, liberty, equality, dignity and freedom of thought and expression. The right to choose one’s gender identity is an essential part to lead a life with dignity

The Court observed that “the gender to which a person belongs is to be determined by the person concerned.”  We need more pro-gender policies and a sensitized executive to ensure a better life for transgender people. Let us move beyond the politics of gender and make Indian society an inclusive society.  

I hope that with our democracy becoming more and more mature, the citizens of this country will be bathed by ‘the clear stream of reason’ and rise to seek knowledge that frees them from all narrow thoughts. And I end by hiring words from Tagore –

“Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

 

Blog by: Anthony Chettri