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Transgenders get sympathy from SC, but no relief February 20, 2009

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Times of India, Transgender.
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From The Times of India:

17 Feb 2009, 0245 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: An emotional demand by transgenders for notional equality in society through a constitutional compensation package, akin to that for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, evoked sympathy from the Supreme Court on Monday, but it said that the government alone could help them.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam, hearing a PIL filed by a transgender Sonam Singh from Ajmer in Rajasthan, said a representation should be addressed to the government, which was free to take steps notwithstanding the SC’s refusal to entertain the petition.

When Singh, through counsel Santhosh Tripathy, sought an end to the centuries-old gender discrimination against the community, the Bench made an innocent inquiry: “What are Kinnars, a caste or community?”

Blaming the governments for being traditionally insensitive to the pitiable plight of the transgenders, the petitioner demanded setting up of a commission to determine the legislative corrective measures needed for upliftment of this forgotten branch of society.

“The transgenders, reduced to begging in the street, have never got the fruits of the constitutional mandate of democratic socialism, which in the broader sense attempted to bring an end to poverty, illiteracy and inequality of opportunity,” said Tripathy.

The petitioner also had a grievance against the Election Commission for not providing for a gender category in the nomination forms for candidates from among the transgenders.

He had also sought a direction to the human resource develoment ministry to conduct a special education programme for transgenders and the government to announce special rehabilitation packages for them.


Transgenders to assemble phones February 10, 2009

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Times of India, Transgender.
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From The Times of India:

10 Feb 2009, 0431 hrs IST, M Ramya, TNN

CHENNAI: In a couple of months, Jinda, a transgender, hopes to put down her begging bowl for good and pick up a mobile phone not to make a call but to repair and assemble them.

The Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board, along with Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS) and Manpower Awareness Social Service (MASS) Trust, has collaborated with mobile phone companies Nokia, Motorola and Foxconn to find alternative employment for transgenders. About 100 of them will be trained for a month and will then assemble parts for the phone companies. They will be paid based on their work.

Nokia, Motorola and Foxconn have sub-contracted assembling of spare parts to MASS Trust. “We have also tied up with three companies that service water treatment plants and transgenders will be in charge of distributing drinking water. They also use treated water from the plants to grow vegetables, which will be procured by a leading retail chain,” said S Selvakumar, managing director, MASS Trust.

Poet Salma, chairperson of the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board, said, “This is a good opportunity for transgenders whose livelihood has for long depended on begging and commercial sex.” MASS Trust has been acting as a facilitating agency to enable people with disabilities and those in rural areas to get jobs. This is the first time transgenders have been included in the plan.

“Transgenders earn an average of Rs 200 a day as alms. They think begging is more convenient than working on a regular basis. There is a need to counsel them and motivate them to raise their standard of living,” says K Gopinath, member, Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board for the Disabled.

MCCSS conducted a life skills workshop on Saturday. “We noticed that many transgenders who were rehabilitated and got jobs as drivers or computer operators lasted only for a couple of weeks into the job. Many returned to their old ways. They need motivational workshops,” says R Sandhya, programme co-ordinator, innovative programme transgender community, MCCSS.

About 50 transgenders from Perambur, ICF and Nungambakkam attended the programme. Most of them were enthusiastic about working in one place without having to travel too much. Jinda said, “I earn a couple of hundreds a day through collection from shops, but it will be good to have fixed work.”

Eunuchs move SC seeking quota in jobs January 21, 2009

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Marginalization, Online/New Media, Transgender.
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From NDTV.com:

Bangladesh eunuchs to vote in first elections December 29, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Marginalization, Online/New Media, Sexuality & Gender, Transgender.
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From Google News/AFP (Also published in Times of India’s print edition):

DHAKA (AFP) — Among the millions of new voters in Monday’s Bangladeshi elections will be some 100,000 hijras — cross-dressing, pre- and post-operative transsexuals — allowed to cast ballots for the first time.

The male-to-female transsexuals are among 32 percent of the impoverished nation’s 81 million voters for whom participating in the elections, the first since 2001, will be a new experience.

Hijra social worker Joya Shikder, herself a transsexual, said the move spelled a positive change for the conservative Muslim country.

“We’ve always been overlooked in previous elections,” Shikder said. “It’s exciting to be given this recognition but the authorities have stopped short of acknowledging us as a third gender.”

The move to give hijras the vote has been applauded by human rights activists but has caused a headache for Election Commission officials who create separate lines for male and female voters at every polling booth.

“You just cannot just class us into men and women by looking at our faces, bodies and expressions,” Shikder said.

Election Commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman said officials were still trying to figure out exactly how hijras would cast their votes on Monday.

“It’s a difficult one for us. We have only two queues, one for men and another for women,” he said.

“We thought long and hard about it but eventually decided that hijras must go to the line that we think suits them best. The more feminine ones will be in the ladies’ line while the ones who seem more manly will be in with the men.”

Monday’s election will end a two-year rule by an army-backed government.

The current regime has pushed through electoral reform during its tenure, including creating a photo identification voter list which has eliminated some 12.7 million fake “ghost” voters.

Commentators say the election will be the fairest in the notoriously corrupt, impoverished South Asian nation. Around 200,000 observers, including 2,500 from overseas, will be watching Monday’s vote.

Among those who will also be voting for the first time are more than 40,000 Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated to Bangladesh from the majority-Hindu Indian state of Bihar after the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 but before Bangladesh — then East Pakistan — gained independence in 1971.

A Bangladesh court ruled in May that the Biharis, long considered refugees but never welcomed by either India or Pakistan, were full-fledged citizens.

Tens of thousands of floating gypsies and more than 50,000 prisoners have also been given voting rights for the first time in this election.

EPW editorial: Gender Rights July 15, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, EPW, Transgender.
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Tamil Nadu takes the progressive step of explicitly recognising transgender as a third gender category.


The government of Tamil Nadu has taken the bold step of officially recognising transgender as a separate sex. For the first time in the country, a government order has been issued by an education department of a state government creating a third gender category for admission in educational institutions. Government and aided colleges will have to admit transgenders (‘hijras/aravanis/alis’) and they will share 30 per cent of the seats reserved for women. A newly-designed application form for the undergraduate courses will include transgender as a separate category, thus permitting these students to join any college of their choice – co-educational, men’s or women’s colleges. This is in tune with the Tamil Nadu governor’s address in the legislative assembly in January 2008 expressing concern about the welfare of transgenders and announcing a number of welfare measures like the issue of ration cards, free surgeries in government hospitals and the establishment of a welfare board.
Until now transgenders could enrol in colleges but only as males. Not wanting to go through the trauma of being forced to study in a men’s college, where they are routinely harassed, a number of them have been waiting for this opening. The inspiration came from Rose Venkatesan and a few other “she-males” as they are often referred to. Venkatesan’s story exemplifies the struggle the community has to face to be in a mainstream vocation. The host of a controversial talk show that has hit the tv screens in south India, Rose Venkatesan is a 28-year-old transgender who was forced to grow up as a boy, and struggled with discrimination and stigmatisation before building a career. Unable to face a gender dilemma, Venkatesan spent adolescence immersed in books and in due course became a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Louisiana Tech University in the United States. Rose Venkatesan has been campaigning for gender justice in education, highlighting that education alone can change the outlook of transgender people and empower them economically. The personal struggles of transsexuals like Rose Venkatesan are slowly acquiring a political dimension and the transgender community has been able to mobilise and empower itself, finding a voice that can be heard.
Transgender culture has been part of the Indian community for centuries with an estimated million transgender people (there is no database that maps them) in the country today. Due to the relative prevalence and also the acceptance of transsexualism, they cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, they face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, law, etc. Facing severe harassment, with little or no opportunity for conventional jobs, most of them earn an income by performing at Hindu religious ceremonies and celebrations, or by begging and also in sex work.
It is the livelihood issues of transgenders that need focused attention. Indisputably the most marginalised and ostracised community, transgenders need special quotas if they are to emerge from the shadows. Unless they are able to integrate with the mainstream social order and share experiences with the general community, the current stigma will not disappear. Being a visible minority and a part of India’s backward group of people, there are attempts to get them into the other backward classes (obc) group. As the general obc category can now have subcategories, this seems a viable proposition and is one way of facilitating the social integration of transgenders. In an age when the boundaries of sexual tolerance are shifting, the time is opportune for an active involvement of and collaboration with the transgender community. Although much remains to be done before the line between acceptability and ostracism is finally removed, Tamil Nadu has shown the way by taking the first step in this direction.

After sex change, man ditched in love June 27, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Crime, Deccan Herald, English, Gay, Online/New Media, The Asian Age, Times of India, Transgender.
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PTI report From The Times of India, 27 June 2008 [Also published by DNA, Outlook, The Asian Age, Yahoo! News and Deccan Herald]:

After sex change, man ditched in love

26 Jun 2008, 1442 hrs IST,PTI

SILIGURI (WB): Egged on by his gay partner to go for a sex change so that they could marry, a man undergoing the process found to his dismay that his partner showed no interest in him any more nor could he return to his original self now.

Feeling betrayed, Dipu Ghosh lodged a complaint to the police who are now looking for Ajit Mondal, Dipu’s estranged partner, officer-in-charge of New Jalpaiguri Police outpost, Pankaj Thapa said on Thursday.

Dipu, a resident of Rangapani near Siliguri, alleged in the complaint that Ajit had convinced him to go for a gender change and get married. He has been in the process for the past three months but his counterpart was now avoiding him.

It was not clinically possible for Dipu now to get back his original male form, albeit effeminate.

Ajit was absconding and his parents claimed to have no knowledge of their son’s homosexuality, Thapa said. They say, it is a plot against their innocent 23-year-old son.

Dipu came in contact with Ajit two years ago and they developed a homosexual relation. Later, with the help of local eunuch community, Dipu went to Mumbai and started working as a bar-girl. He now earns a modest amount.

“Money is not a problem for me. I am ready to give Ajit everything, a beautiful life…. (I’ll) fulfill all his dreams. But he has no right to insult my love,” he told a local television channel.

Eunuch from India fights for respect at UN AIDS meets June 13, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, HIV, Homophobia, Online/New Media, Television, Transgender.

Lalit K Jha

An Indian eunuch Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is fighting for the rights and respect of the global transgender community during the ongoing United Nations high level meeting on AIDS.

After meeting a large number of ambassadors, diplomats, world leaders and social activists who from all over the world have gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the HIV/ AIDS meet, Tripathi told NDTV.Com in an interview that she is here to fight for transgender community, who have been deprived of their basic rights and are not being treated as human being.

”I am raising the main issues of sex workers and sexual minorities who are treated with total disrespect. I am trying to bring the attention of the whole world to the issue of sexual minority,” Tripathi said. ”I want that people should be more humane, they should consider each other as human being, and to respect them just to consider them as transgender,” she said.

Born in an orthodox Brahmin family in 1979, Tripathi has the distinction of being the only eunuch in the UN’s Civil Society Task Force on HIV/AIDS. In fact a UN event on HIV/AIDS has included transgender persons in the work of civil society caucus for the first time: a development greeted with cheers among eunuchs worldwide.

”The fact that I’m here should be a big achievement, but it amounts to nothing,” she said during a press conference at the UN headquarters media briefing room.

Sitting on the same chair, which is very often occupied by visiting heads of states and the UN Secretary General himself, Tripathi asked correspondents: ”Am I invisible? You all can see me. Then, why we the transgender are treated as invisible?”

Speaking flawless English to the surprise of many UN correspondents, Tripathi explained that throughout the global South, especially in countries where transgender persons were also part of an ethnic group, sexual minorities were forced to beg for basic services and health care or forced into sex work because there was no political will to recognise their fundamental rights.

”Health services for people suffering from HIV AIDS are out of the question because doctors don’t want to touch you,” she said.

Observing that transgender people are very often threatened with stoning and death, Tripathi said that transgender communities are often afraid to assert their rights because they know that authorities would not back them up. ”It is now up to the UN to wake people up so that we are recognised as human beings,” she said.

”This is a mission, which I want to accomplish,” Tripathi told NDTV.Com after the press conference. ”Governments are treating us like shits. We can’t let this happen anymore,” she said.

Running an NGO called Astitva in Mumbai for the welfare of sexual minorities, Tripathi alleged that be it in the developed or the developing countries or the underdeveloped world, sexual minorities are not taken into consideration at all.

Observing that the condition of her community worldwide is pathetic, Tripathi said: ”They have no human rights, no right to education and no right for employment. If you do not have education, you do not have capacity to work or set up a business.”

Tripathi has been the centre of attraction during the UN meet. Standing five feet and eleven inches above ground and wearing colorful saree with glittering jewellery, she always caught people’s attention as she moved around the UN building.

”Even simple thing like access to medicine is big thing for us. Doctors are not ready to touch you,” she said. This is not only in India, and under developed and developing countries but also in developed countries, she argued.

”Governments have no interest for them, the politicians do not want to please them,” said Tripathi, who has made several passionate speeches during the UN meeting on the same lines.

Queer as Folk June 11, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Bisexual, English, Gay & Lesbian, Indian Express, Movies, Transgender.
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From The Indian Express, 10 June 2008:

Queer as Folk

Premankur Biswas

Posted online: Tuesday , June 10, 2008 at 02:32:32
Updated: Tuesday , June 10, 2008 at 02:32:32

The second edition of the LGBT film festival of Kolkata will appeal to a cross section of audience, promise the organisers In its second year the Annual Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Film & Video Festival of Kolkata may not boast of the glamour or scale of it’s more illustrious cousins like the New York or London LGBT film festivals, but it sure has managed to achieve something that took these iconic festivals years. “Even in our first year we managed to draw a sizable non-queer audience. In fact, it wouldn’t be presumptuous to state that film connoisseurs of Kolkata have an active interest in queer cinema,” states Anindya Hajra, member of Pratyay Gender Trust, one of the organisers of the festival.

The reason, explains Hajra, is Kolkata’s healthy interest in everything “cultural”. “Most viewers choose to view these films for their individual merits. The queer factor comes into the picture later,” he claims. But the organisers aren’t complaining. “ The idea is to create awareness and generate dialogue. It doesn’t matter if they come here just to view good cinema, as long as the films manage to touch them in some way,” states Hajra.

The festival, which will be held at Max Mueller Bhavan over this weekend, is a joint effort of Pratyay Gender Trust and Sappho for Equality. “Apart from some of the most important LGBT films from across the world, we also have an interesting section of Indian shorts, and videos from experimental, amateur and professional filmmakers from India. These shorts – ranging from 6 minutes to 35/ 40 minutes are the highlight of this year’s festival,” says Hajra.

The selection of films was done keeping in mind the discerning taste of the Kolkata audience. A bouquet of films, which explore the topic homosexuality in different cultures and situations, is to be presented to the audience. “ Our opening film is The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, which is a coming-of-age tale of a Filipino youngster. It got 12 awards, including the best film award at the Berlin Film Festival,” says Hajra. The closing film of the festival is the acclaimed Cuban film, Strawberries & Chocolates (Fresa y Chocolate), which explores a complicated relationship between a gay dissident and a communist student in Cuba.

Film lovers will also get the opportunity to catch Wong Kar Wai’s Cannes Film Festival winner, Happy Together, which is hailed by many critics as his best.

The festival is on at Max Mueller Bhavan on from 14 to 15 June. For more details contact 9831518320 & 24292969.

Of Passion and the third sex June 10, 2008

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Excerpted From Mid-Day (Mumbai):

Of Passion & the third sex

There are so many aspects to the existence of the third sex. You can either squint at them through a suspicious grey tint, regard them with strangely-detached compassion, put up a mask of pseudo-sisterhood…“Or you can simply try to capture the passion, fantasy and glamour in their shows… the energy they so naturally transmit on stage,” declares Peru-born Enith Perez, who is currently showing a photography exhibition in the city.

All For Passion: Titled Passion Juice, the show of 13 alternatively psychedelic, surreal and sombre images depict Mumbai’s transgender community in action.

Perez decided to make the hijra her muse, when she first saw a dance performance at a venue in Dadar, two years ago, and put her camera into action.

“That’s when I had just moved to Mumbai with my husband Srinivas,” the soft-spoken anthropologist recalls. She went on to watch a few more shows — in a “gully” near Siddhivinayak temple and one organised in lieu with the Humsafar Trust.

“I showed a few of the performers my pictures; they liked what they saw, and they allowed me to continue clicking,” the 30-year-old says, adding that perhaps “the fact that I am a woman” made things easier.

why check it out: To get a perspective of a glitzy, gloss-tainted world that’s alien (by chance or/and choice) to most of us. Rather than dismiss them as parasites who compulsively bribe you with “aashirwad” in exchange for crisp notes, you will see hijras metamorphose into divas. If only for a day.

On view till June 30 at Alliance Française de Bombay, Theosophy Hall, New Marine Lines. From 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Call 22091556

Gays unite for their rights; to fight AIDS, TB May 22, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Gay, HIV, Online/New Media, Section 377, Transgender.
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Swapna Tarafdar

May 21, 2008 14:41 IST
Last Updated: May 21, 2008 14:43 IST

In a key move in their campaign for recognition of their rights, gay and transgender groups have come together to form a united community to bid for funding by the International Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria.

More than 40 gay and transgender groups from across the country met on April 11 in the national capital to put up a united community led bid for the eighth round of funding announced by GFATM.

“At the meeting, we unanimously nominated the international HIV/AIDS alliance to be the primary recipient of the funding from GFATM since it has the technical expertise that meets GFATM’s exacting standards,” a member of the gay community said.

The move comes at a time when gay groups in the country are fighting against abrogation of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which provides for punishment for homosexuality. A case to this effect is pending in the Delhi High Court.

A subcommittee of experts from various groups was formed, which has since then drafted the proposal in collaboration with the alliance.

This will now be submitted before the India Country Coordination Mechanism for inclusion in India’s national bid before the GFATM.

Reacting to their decision, National Programme Officer, Targeted Intervention, NACO, Dr Smarajit Jana, said, “We very much welcome their decision and we will be happy if they take their own responsibility.”

“They are the most vulnerable group with regard to AIDS and HIV. We want these people to take responsibility for themselves. We are here but we cannot do much. Uniting all gays is a good effort from their side,” Jana said.

This is the first time these groups have put up such a united show for their legitimate dues and it is indicative of the gay and transgender activism in the country becoming mature, he said.

“The GFATM has also been insisting on greater civil society involvement in their funding process and with this MSM (Men Having Sex With Men) groups will be making information available known to them,” he said.

In their proposal, the gay groups have taken care to avoid any duplication of work with activities already budgeted for the National AIDS Control Plan.

“Our proposal aims at strengthening and creating community organisations that would support the National Plan and create appropriate and effective spending possibility of money in the national plan, which so far has often remained unspent in many states,” informed another member of the gay group.