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Changing facets of gender minorities

Wrapped up in the trimmings of a man was a phoenix waiting to be reborn. Twenty five-year-old Mahima (name changed) is among the many transgender women in the city waiting to give love and be treated with humanity and dignity.

Prabhu Mallikarjunan finds out more

Mahima is one of the lucky few among gender minorities to have a recognised job and earn a livelihood doing administrative work. This, by all means, has made her wear a smile and reduced dependency on sex work and begging.

But, the journey wasn’t easy for Mahima as she fought her way through years of struggle for personal freedom and choice of sexuality.

Mahima, who was born male biologically, was more comfortable being surrounded by women and girls since her childhood. A young boy saw himself as a girl and dreamt of being a girl.

Narrating her life story, Mahima take us through as to how there still exist misconceptions about the gender minorities, and how they are treated on a day-to-day basis.

“I always used to play with girls, preferred to wear girl’s clothes. Eventually, I admired their body and wanted to have female genitals. I wanted to be like them. Though, my mother and sister recognised my feelings, they never appreciated nor accepted. As I was having a feminine charm, I was being teased by friends and neighbours in the vicinity. I felt left out and I used to search for people who could understand my feeling.

“One fine day, I met a Hijra group and I went on a night out with them. After returning home, I was house-arrested for six months as my family members did not accept what I did. But after a couple of years, I had to run away from home, as I was not treated with dignity. The environment at college was no different. Guys used to grope me and teachers used to abuse me. I had to quit my studies due to social stigma that existed and it was a mental torture each day. I had to resort to begging and sex work, as no one was ready to give me job.

“It took me four years to save enough money for my treatment to remove my male genitals and have a breast implant. It seems like only yesterday. There was no one to stop me, not even my family, from pushing through, because it was my mindset that was important.

“After 6 six years, I visited my parents and started giving them money every month. But, I was made to wear a burka whenever I walked in and out of the house. The reason, it was considered a shame for my family members to explain my gender identity to neighbours as they felt that they would be disregarded in the ‘society’.

“And the horror continued from sexual abuse by drunken men (clients) to taunts from women and beatings from police…”

This is the story of an estimated two million people in India who, in the eyes of the society at large, have no real identity. The extreme stigmatisation surrounding transgressions around alternative sexuality as well as sex work makes it extremely difficult for families to accept their children.

Stigmatised by society and disowned by relatives, the majority of India’s transgender community is forced to live with restricted access to education, jobs and health care.

The Government is yet to take up a census of the people belonging to gender minorities in the state/ country. In spite of the reading down the anti-sodomy law, Section 377 of the IPC in 2009, members of these groups remain stigmatised and outside of the mainstream. While headway has been made, the journey to equality is not over.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document of human rights law, “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state” (Article 16) Underlying this discourse on the family is the presumption that it is an essential structure for the protection of human rights, including the rights of liberty and dignity. However, for the gender minorities, the experience of the family is stark different.

Instead of protecting their child from the violence inflicted by the wider society, the family in fact provides an arena to act out the intolerance of the wider society.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties, an organisation working in defence of Civil Liberties and Human Rights, in its report on ‘Human rights violations against the transgender community’ has highlighted these issue and has noted that, given the enormous sense of isolation faced by gender minorities, particularly in the villages, the only solace or hope is when they get to know that there exist other people like them who live in the bigger cities. This in turn contributes to the formation of the Hijra community as a largely urban phenomenon.

Changing times

For the first time in the history of the Karnataka High Court, a transgender was appointed as an employee. C Anu has been appointed in the Group ‘D’ category. Interestingly, yet another transgender women Priyanka works as a radio jockey at Radio Active Radio, an urban community radio hosted by Jain Group of Institutions, as part of its social outreach program.

Akkai Padmashali of rights organisation Sangama in Bangalore, who has been fighting for the right of the gender minority community for the past two decades says that things have begun to alter in the traditional Indian mindset and notes there seems to be both subtle and appreciable changes taking place in terms of how this group are being treated and recognised by mainstream society.

But, she does not cast away the government ignorance towards them.

“Three years ago, a number of promises were made by the then chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, with regard to providing us ration cards, pension, etc and a Government order was passed in this regard. But the promises have just remained on papers and are yet to materialise,” she adds.

The Karnataka government identified The Department of women and Child Development to be the nodal agency to address the concerns of gender minorities recognised the Karnataka State Women Development Corporation as the nodal institution to extend necessary facilities to the Gender minorities members.

 Key points promised to gender minorities in GO NO. MaMaE 68 MaANi 2010 DATED 20-10-2010)

■ The Gender minorities group to be included in the Category-2A of the Backward Classes List as per the recommendations of the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission.

■ Inclusion in the voters’ list by the Revenue Department.

■ Providing 01% reservation in the admission to college courses.

■ To be provided with houses constructed by the Slum Clearance Board.

■ To be given BPL ration cards by the Food and Civil Supplies Dept.

■ To be given free medical assistance and implementing health insurance to these members under Yashashwini Health Insurance Scheme by the Health and Family Welfare Department.

■ Financial assistance and required training to a member of Gender minorities up to Rs 20,000/- or to a group of 5 members up to Rs 100,000/- by the Women Development Corporation.

However, of these nothing seem to have materialised in reality and the reservation in education which could uplift the society in a large way has not moved an inch forward.

“The gender minorities do not have an identity yet. We have reminded the Election Commission and other departments concerned to issue them ID cards. Once this is done, other benefits will follow easily. The problem with such groups is that most of them do not have a permanent address. This is an area of concern,” said Narayanaswamy, Managing Director of Karnataka State Women’s Development Corporation.

MYTHOLOGICAL REFERENCE

Reference in Mahabharatha:

Arjuna marries a lady by name Nagakanye. A son is born to her and he is named Aravana. He belongs to third sex (shikhandi). When he was asked to come to the battlefield to defeat Bhishma, he asks to get married before his death in the hands of Bhishma. As nobody was willing to marry him, Lord Krishna himself gets transformed into a lady (Mohini) and marries him.

The Hijras of Tamil Nadu and gays and lesbians consider this Aravana as their original man and they treat themselves as ‘Aravaniyars’.

The Hijras sing, danced and bless the children and couples during naming ceremonies and marriages. Sindhis, Punjabis, Marwaris, Gujratis etc. follow this tradition. They respectfully request the Hijras to grace the function. The hosts will even touch the feet of Hijras on such occasions. This custom is very much there even now.

Archaic laws:                                     

Contradicting the progressive efforts made by state government to extend benefits to gender minorities, last year, the Karnataka Legislative Assembly amended the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 , empowering the police to maintain a register of the names and the places of residence of all “eunuchs” who are “reasonably suspected of kidnapping boys, castrating them, or making them do unnatural crimes, or encouraging others to commit unnatural offences or any other offences.

Siddharth Narrain of Alternative Law Forum strongly condemns this and said the law is based on a colonial legislation called the Hyderabad Eunuchs Act. “It re-criminalises the hijra or transgender community by bringing back provisions which had been removed from Indian legislation long ago,” he said.

He also noted that the history behind legislation like this goes back to the Criminal Tribes Act – a colonial-era law under which the British government notified all members of certain tribes, castes, and social groups as criminal at birth. When City Express checked with a few police officers including the additional police commissioner, none were aware of the change in statute and also said that they were not using the provision yet.

The Hyderabad Eunuchs Act is directly derived from the colonial-era Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) passed by the British Government in 1871, the Act is a product of the British Administration’s repugnance toward certain tribes and communities that the State deemed as ‘addicted to the systematic commission of nonbailable offences. The

Criminal Tribes Act notified all eunuchs and members of about 150 tribes as criminal at birth.

International perspective:

Argentina has put in place some of the most liberal rules on changing gender, allowing people to alter their gender on official documents without first having to receive a psychiatric diagnosis or surgery.

Any adult there will be able to officially change his or her gender, image and birth name without having to get approval from doctors or judges — and without having to undergo physical changes beforehand, as many U.S. jurisdictions require.

In Nepal, the government has decided to issue special identity cards for the group with the third sex. The move was seen as an effort to eliminate gender discrimination. Australia and New Zealand both have “X” as an option in addition to ‘M’ or ‘F’ on passport applications. Bangladesh allows citizens to register to vote as “eunuchs.”

TERMS FOR REFERENCE

Sex: refers to the biological distinction between males and females

Gender: concerns the social differences between males and females. Gender describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine.

Sexuality minorities: people discriminated against, due to their sexual identity/orientation or gender identity. This includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, hijras, kothis, transgenders, etc.

Gender minorities: (Also referred to as Mangalamukhis) they include Hijras, Kothis, Jogappas, female to male transgenders

Transgender: Someone who is anatomically born in a certain sex, but is more comfortable with the gender/sexual identity of a different gender, and chooses to go in for a sex reassignment surgery or hormonal treatment.

Kothis are those who are born as male members but having female feelings. Generally, they won’t change their sex. They prefer to wear male dress.

Hijras are those born male members but would like to identify themselves as females. Hence they like to remove their genitals by operation.

F to M (Female to Male) are those who are born as female members but like to identify themselves as male members.

Henniga, Khoja, ombathu — considered as derogatory terms (advised not to use)

(With inputs from Alternative Law Forum and Sangama)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………(This article was published in TNIE city edition dated Aug 11, 2012)

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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in News and Views

 

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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in News and Views

 

Child care goes for a toss

Prabhu Mallikarjunan tracks the shift in academic focus and evolution of pre-schools over the years

Meditation, motor skills, ethics, social skills, self-esteem, self-reliance, stage exposure, live shows, good habits, reasoning skills, general knowledge, reading, writing and counting.

Not surprisingly, if you’re just wondering why these random words are popular in the commercial world, well, each one has a value and is termed as ‘brain developers’ for the kids, only to be a part of the curriculum list in some of the pre-schools, kindergartens and Montessori schools.

Devi Prasad, not even two-years-old, was put into pre-school, not because his parents wanted ‘brain development’ for their children, but because they hardly had time to take care of him in their busy structured life. His childhood is taken care of at a home turned school run by a couple, who handle little students without any pre-requisite to become a qualified pre-school teacher. Prasad, plays with other kids in the school, lifts a big balloon typed ball, which otherwise is termed physical development and is part of his gym activities at the school, handles electronic devices to play music, listen to rhymes and dance, only to become a gadget guru at a later stage.

Well, some of the activities in the list might just be the day-to-day activity of the child in the normal course, but it gets structured, timed and instructional, to suit the needs of this unregulated industry of early childhood care.

The crucial six years

Early childhood is the first six years of life, which is considered to be the most crucial period for inculcating learning and development. During this period, the kids absorb everything they are exposed to, using all their senses. Pre-schools essentially reach out to the child from the age of 10 months, keeping in mind, his earlier growth and his developmental needs.

According to 2011 census, India has 158.7 million children in the 0-6 year age group. Of the 158.7 million children in the below-six-years category, about 75.7 million children (48 per cent) are reported to be covered under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme. A significant number is also covered by the private sector, for which there is no data available.

The pre-schools we saw a decade ago that targeted the upper middle class which tended to be academically focused, today are growing beyond the ‘class’ divide and cater to every section of the society, mostly in urban areas. Some of the chain-schools like Kidzee, admit kids as young as 9-10 months of age and some go with the westernised curriculum which may not necessarily suit the Indian segment. But, the ones catering to the rural kids and differently-abled kids are a cause for worry.

Lack of standards

The quality of these pre-schools or early childhood care that imparts education through multiple channels is that it is uneven, and varies from institute to institute.

“Our curriculum was adopted based on western market and Montessori concept from Italy. We do not see any threat in adopting the western model as the world is shrinking and globalising education system has become important. We do cater to the rural segment and our teaching aids will not differ between rural and urban,” said Pritam Agarwal, Founder Director of Hello Kids, a pre-school chain which has over 160 centers across India. “Only organised school management can take on this voluminous task of maintaining a standard across the centers and ensure quality is delivered”, he added. However, education experts are calling for a strict legislation for the regulation of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which could monitor the curriculum, ensure quality, technological investment and licensing mechanism.

Dr Usha Arbol, a child development consultant and former regional director National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, said, “Today, anybody can start a pre-school without any permission or licensing. Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) is estimated to be a ` 4,000 crore industry, which currently has no monitoring mechanism and is projected to grow at 35 per cent annually.” In counties like Canada and Australia, the ECCE sector is regulated by 17 regulatory bodies and the governments monitor the education standards and conduct regular inspection.

And, importantly, the full-time staff undergoes, either a four year bachelors degree in early education or a two year early education diploma from community college through post-secondary education.

Even in a country like Pakistan, NGOs like Plan International Pakistan, which work for promoting child rights are streamlining the syllabus and have piloted this in 101 of the total 390 government schools which were reconstructed in flood-hit areas of southern Punjab, by the Plan International Pakistan.

Strict legislation

But in India, without any regulation, more and more pre-schools and kindergartens are mushrooming, while education experts call for a strict legislation for the regulation of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), though there exists a draft policy on ECCE, which fails to address some of the prominent issues of profit making, rural-urban divide, technology investment and control mechanism.

But, the draft policy aims at standardising the quality of ECCE available to children by laying down basic quality standards and specifications across public, private and voluntary

sectors. Unlike the formal education sector, schools and universities, pre-schools are not bound by the Supreme Court’s ruling that bars profiteering in education and where directors of education can ask these schools to reduce the fees and other charges who are indulging only for profit motives.

The ECCE will not fall under the purview of department of education but is part of the department of women and child. This ECCE policy will cover all early childhood care and education programmes and related services in public, private and voluntary sectors in all settings across regions.

These services include anganwadis (AWC), creches, play schools, preschools, nursery schools, kindergartens, preparatory schools, balwadis, and home-based care.

Chairman, Child Welfare Committee, Karnataka, Meena K Jain said that ECCE should fall under the Department of Education for better implementation and resource mobilisation.

Rural-Urban divide

Yet another aspect is that, these schools are not entering the rural market to bring in equality in education. While rural kids would start to hold a slate at the age of 6, urban kids at these centers would be using mini-laptops and getting equipped to changing times, which could create a serious imbalance.

“I wonder if the draft policy on ECCE will address this issue. Funding will be an important aspect and though ECCE received attention in the National Policy for Children (1974), consequent to which the ICDS was initiated, we still have a long way to go and tough challenges are ahead,” Jain added.

But, the kids in anganwadis, managed under ICDS, were given importance on the nutritious benefit ignoring the early education training because of lack of trained staff and training equipment.

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(This article was published in TNIE city edition dated May 26, 2012)
 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in News and Views

 

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Cases against K-protestors a parody of law: Fact Finding Team

PRESS RELEASE

18 April, 2012. CHENNAI – A fact-finding team headed by senior journalist Sam Rajappa confirmed that the Government had indeed restricted movement of essential goods and people in the days following the Chief Minister’s March 19th declaration announcing her support to the nuclear plant.

The report, which was released at a press conference in Chennai, noted that the spirit of opposition to the nuclear power plant was very high, and warned that arresting the leaders could lead to a serious law and order problem in the region.

The report, which was based on a two-day visit to Idinthakarai on March 30 and 31, Nagercoil and other villages in Radhapuram taluk, observes that the police had filed “false cases under every conceivable section in law.”

Just between Sept 10, 2011 and Dec 23, 2011, the police had filed 107 FIRs against 55795 people. Of this, 6800 people have been charged with “sedition” and/or “waging war against the State,” perhaps the largest ever number in British or independent India for one police station. The report’s authors said the recent FIR alleging “attempt to murder” by S.P. Udayakumar, V. Pushparayan and other leaders was fabricated and designed to malign the peaceful movement and its leaders.

“This is a parody of law. The frequency and manner in which the Police has filed cases against peaceful protestors clearly exposes that the police’s intent never was to uphold the rule of law, but to crush any dissenting voices,” said Mr. Rajappa. “The Tamil Nadu CM belongs right up there with Mamata Banerjee for her vengeful use of the Indian Penal Code to suppress any contrary voices,” he said.

Rubbishing claims about mischievous outside instigators and innocent villagers, the report’s authors found that the protest was “a genuine people’s movement.” “Throughout our two-day visit, we could not find any trace of the agitation being instigated by Mr.Udayakumar or any other leader. It is a genuine people’s movement,” the team said. The report also documents a contribution of Rs. 1,25,000 by “a group of fishermen from Chinna Muttom in Kanyakumar district to express solidarity with the Koodankulam agitators. . .and to keep the agitation going.”

Loyola College lecturer Dr. Gladston Xavier, who was also part of the fact finding team, said “The Government should learn from incidents like the Arab Spring that the more the suppression of free speech, the greater the strength and explosive force with which it will eventually emerge.”

The report’s authors appealed to the State Government to revoke the cases filed against protestors, and engage in a genuine and democratic dialogue with them on the substantive issues concerning nuclear safety.

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FACT FINDING TEAM

The fact finding team comprised of the following members who visited the areas around Koodankulam nuclear plant on 30th and 31st March 2012, to study the impacts caused by curfew imposed.

Mr. Sam Rajappa, Senior Journalist & Director, Statesman School of Print Journalism, Kolkata

Dr. Gladston Xavier, Senior Lecturer, Loyola College

Mr. Mahadevan, President, PUCL-Kanyakumari District

Ms. Porkodi, Advocate, High court Madurai bench

Mr. Rajan, PUCL Kanyakumari

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in News and Views

 

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Kudankulam meltdown | Down To Earth

Koodunkulam A sure way of riling the people around the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) is to ask why they launched their opposition to the plant just months before the first of its two reactors was set to go critical.

via Kudankulam meltdown | Down To Earth.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in News and Views

 

Ground Zero of the protests at Koodankulam

“The urgent need is for journalists to pour into the village and cover as many of the layers of violence and the struggle of the people to withstand and oppose it.”

Perhaps, the above lines posted on a blog on Kafila.org by a victim of Koodankulam protest/supporter of the protest, instigated me to go to the village and check the reality. I was unaware of the cruelty that was inherent to lives surrounding the Koodankulam village. It was/is not news outside Koodankulam. I am still shocked as to why is it not a news. Possibly, Sachin’s 100, Trivdi’s exit, UPA 2’s fiasco and the budget was far more important for the media than the inhumane torture which was happening in a remote corner of the village.

Harassment and torture are not an accepted norm. leaving aside who funds the protest, civil liberties cannot be violated. I was even more shocked to know that Sec 144 of CrPc (prohibiting an assembly of more than five people in an area) is imposed in the entire Taluk and not just the village.

As I write, the police troops are gathering at Koodankulam suspecting that the Naxals are present in the region and are funding the protest. the State repression continues on the protesting villagers in Tamil Nadu.

Detailed story to follow soon. In the meanwhile, have a look at the pictures.

Thousands of wind turbines generators installed at Radhapuram Taluk (Koodankulam and surrounding villages) capable of producing 2,000 KW (2 MW) power. Who benefits? Not definitely the villagers. The entire power is supplied to other cities.
Refer link http://www.hindu.com/2004/08/19/stories/2004081907630600.htm

Villagers have blocked roads leading to protest site at Idithankarai fearing TN police would enter the protest site and create havoc.

the presence of police in large numbers inside the village makes it difficult for the movement of essential commodities. Villages resort to sea route to procure food supplies from nearby coastal villages.

As the prohibitory order of Sec 144 is imposed, movement of people in large numbers to the protest site via road is difficult. So, people are arriving via seat routes to Idithankarai. Also, bus service is not completely restored inside the village.

Close to 4,000 people participated in the protest on Friday, March 23, to express solidarity for 15 people who are on hunger strike fighting against the nuclear power plant at Koodankulam. The count is reported to have doubled over the weekend. (Organisers explaining the protesters of the ill effect of nuclear power plants)

Children as young as 7, practice songs (social message) to keep the protesters motivated and stick to their goal to fight against the nuclear power plant.

Reality: Food (rice porridge) cooked in the community kitchen, helped by volunteers, being served to all protesters, villagers and the media persons. There is a difference of what happens at Ramlila or Jantar Mantar in Delhi and St Lourdes Church grounds in Koodankulam. Crippled with fear, and blinded by the absence of their future, people who have seen the worst during Tsunami are participating in the protest.

Violation of rules: Close to 450 families reside within 1 km from the nuclear power plant violating the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) guidelines. Story reported by Gangadhar Patil http://bit.ly/zANwlC. This photo was taken from the roof of one of the houses built by the Government for Tsunami victims.

Lessons Learnt: Posters of victims of Chemobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and the effect of radiation on humans being displayed.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in News and Views

 

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Revival of ragi through value addition

BANGALORE: Ragi (Fingermillet), the crop which once flourished in Karnataka, lost its resemblance over the years due to lack of support from the State government. However, of late, the crop has been reintroduced with many Self Help Groups (SHGs) showing interest in processing ragi into various marketable products.

Ratnamma of Doddaballapur taluk, grows ragi in her one acre of land and utilises the produce for processing value added products like pappad, vermicelli, mixture, and other home-made recipes.

“Gandhi Krishi Vignan Kendra (GKVK) has given us training for producing Ragi-based bakery products and this has acted as a great source of income. A member of the SHG can earn anywhere between� Rs 10,000 to 15,000. We market the products on our own and supply it to different districts,” she added. The grain is nutritious with balanced protein, higher calcium and iron and dietary fibre. This provides with enough opportunities for developing and promoting nutritious utility products from Ragi.

Ragi is grown in rain-fed areas adjoining the border of Karnataka, in the south and south-western region. It is predominantly grown including Mysore, Mandya and Bangalore Rural and Bidar districts.

Ragi is an important dry land crop valued for food grain and straw. One of the important features of Ragi is its resilience and ability to adjust to marginal agro-climatic conditions in terms of soil fertility, rainfall and other weather parameters.

“There are ample opportunities for small entrepreneurs among rural women through development and marketing innovative value added products that is being highly promoted in recent years. This can transform rural employment and retain youths in farming sector,”  S M Savitha, subject matter specialist at GKVK, Bangalore, said.

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(This article was published in TNIE city edition dated March 09, 2012)
 
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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in News and Views

 

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