Monday, November 17, 2014

Hijras as home guards?

Happenings, Nov '14
Hijra community leaders advocate for livelihood options with the police in Bhubaneswar. Pawan Dhall reports

Bhubaneswar, October 18, 2014: “If we don’t get jobs, what other option do we have to earn our bread and butter?” Hijra and other trans women's community leaders posed this question to Dr. R. P. Sharma, Police Commissioner for Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, at a meeting in Bhubaneswar today. A key representative of SAKHA, a support forum for trans women in Odisha, informed Varta that the police officials had expressed concerns about a month earlier that several trans women broke the law and operated as sex workers on different roads of Bhubaneswar at night. In the process, they attracted drunken men who created a nuisance and disturbed other residents in neighbouring localities. Today’s meeting was organized to address the concerns of both sides.

Hijra and other trans women's community leaders at the meeting with the police.
Photo credit: SAKHA 

The meeting was organized by Meera Kinner of All Odisha Kinner Mahasangha with the support of Pratap Kumar Sahu of Nikhila Odisha Hijra Mahasangha, Madhuri of Mamta Welfare Trust and Sadhana Kinner of SAKHA. 

When Dr. R. P. Sharma requested the community leaders to advise trans women not to practice sex work, they said that the Odisha state government was at fault for not having moved on any of the promises it had made towards ensuring livelihood opportunities for Hijras and other trans women. Implementation of the Supreme Court judgement on transgender identities and rights was also still pending.

Redirecting the onus on the matter towards the police itself, the community leaders suggested that the police should train and appoint trans women as home guards or special police officers. This would provide alternative employment opportunities to at least some Hijras and other trans women. These appointees could also help the police in protecting trans women from harassment by hooligans, and in advising transgender sex workers on which parts of the city to avoid. The police officials responded that they would consider these suggestions seriously, and the minutes of the meeting would be shared with the Odisha Department of Women and Child Development, which is charged with the responsibility of transgender and Hijra welfare in the state.

While there seems to have been no debate at the meeting on why sex work should be seen as a crime in the first place, what was appreciable was that the police went beyond its usual modus operandi of dealing with sex workers with a heavy hand, and created an opportunity for dialogue with the trans women's communities in Odisha. One hopes for speedy but careful decision making that can work suitably for all sides concerned.

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there! 

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