Friday, June 24, 2016

Odisha awaits transgender welfare board

Happenings, Jun '16
Anupam Hazra reports on the ‘2nd Transgender Day’ event in Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Inauguration of '2nd Transgender Day'  event at
Bhubaneswar. Photo credit: Anupam Hazra
Bhubaneswar, April 25, 2016: Trans women’s community groups in Odisha made an emphatic presentation of their demands at the observation of the state’s ‘2nd Transgender Day’ at Hotel Keshari in Bhubaneswar today. Odisha Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo was presented with a charter of demands for the formation of a transgender welfare board in the state, reserved seats in educational institutes, opportunities to participate in the political sphere, separate beds in government hospitals, pension for individuals above 40 years, and access to benefits under a number of social welfare schemes.

While the minister assured that he would try his best to fulfill the demands of the transgender communities in Odisha, others felt that the state government should move faster in this regard. Among them was human rights defender Biswa Priya Kanungo, who a few months ago filed a complaint with the Odisha Human Rights Commission questioning the state government for not implementing the Honourable Supreme Court of India’s judgment on transgender identities andrights speedily enough.

Hijra activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi said by now (more than two years since the judgment) a transgender welfare board should have been set up in Odisha. She said the transgender communities were not looking for alms from the government – they wanted their constitutionally guaranteed rights to be recognized and respected. She added: “There are a large number of agencies under the United Nations umbrella, and Odisha is among the states that receives the largest amounts of aid from these agencies. A transgender welfare board must be set up immediately to avail of these resources and opportunities.”

Nitin Chandra, Secretary and Mansi Nimbhal, Director, Department of Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Government of Odisha, stressed on the need for enumeration of the transgender populations in the state. They said their department had contracted Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar to carry out the enumeration.

Hijra activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi (right) with Meera Parida
of SAKHA (to her left). Photo credit: Anupam Hazra
Dr. Akshay Rout of Vivekananda Hospital, who regularly performs sexual reassignment surgeries for both trans women and trans men, said he started undertaking such operations in 2009-10. His clients included even senior and / or retired professionals. He urged for wider availability of quality health services around feminization and masculinization procedures.

The event, supported by Project Diva of Voluntary Health Services, Chennai and Odisha State AIDS Control Society, drew participation by a number of transgender community members from across the state. Many of them were a testament to the courage and enterprise of transgender individuals in their daily lives. Among them were Phulo, a school teacher from Kandhamal district, and Madhuri, whose birthday was celebrated at the event. The parents of Meghna, a Hijra leader, were also felicitated at the event.

The event winded up with a talent show, with transgender and Hijra community members dancing to Odia and Bollywood songs.

Subsequent to this event, on May 29, 2016, the Odisha government decided to accord ‘below poverty line’ status to transgender persons as well as cover them under the National Food Security Act 2013. See Press Trust of India news report Transgenders in Odisha to Get BPL Status, Will be Covered under National Food Security Act published in Huffington Post. Welcome as these initiatives are, they will address only a small part of the problem and are not likely to capacitate transgender individuals with education, new life skills and livelihood opportunities, something which the community has been demanding for long – Editor.

Anupam Hazra works for the Kolkata office of Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII).

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