India is home to around 4.9 lakh people belonging to the transgender community, out of which 55,000 are kids of age 0 to 6. These figures, however, are not accurate as in a country like ours talking or ‘discovering’ about your sexuality is considered as a major taboo. It has also created divides and irrational fears amongst the citizens of India.
There are thousands of parents who never come out and identify their child as ‘the third gender’. There are places where these people are clubbed under the category of male gender. Thus, disturbing the Census of this community.
The ‘third gender’ or the hijras, as Indians address them have a very unique position in India, they are considered sacred because of the Hindu mythology. We call them to bless us in auspicious occasions. But when it comes to giving them rights so that they could lead a better life where do we stand?
In April (2014), India ‘s Supreme Court recognized transgender people as ―The Third gender along with male and female. A bench of Justice K.S.Radha Krishnan and A.K.Sikri, in separate but concurrent judgments, said ―eunuchs, apart from the binary gender, is treated as ―third gender for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under our constitution and the laws made by parliament and the state legislature.
Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.
Trans people face a lot of problems when it comes to health as it includes includes a range of primary and other health care services, as well as a focus on socio-economic determinants of health such as identity document policies poverty, employment, housing and public acceptance of trans people.
Transgenders experience health issues more than the general public, they are more susceptible to contract AIDS infection, mental health issues and violence because of the social stigma.
Transgenders are 49 times more susceptible to AIDS virus than normal public, the reason being 90% of the transgenders in India are forced to do sex work, and as data suggests trans people are paid extra for unprotected sex the things get worse.
Unavailability of efficient and cheap treatment to these people further worsens the condition, thus adding more cases of HIV every year. India has introduced several schemes and programs to bring awareness amongst the trans community to provide them better medication against AIDS making it the first country to do so.
Transgenders are more prone to mental health issues given the current society where they are considered outcasts. According to a study conducted by a local NGO in Maharashtra among the transgender community, it showed that 48% of these people suffer from chronic depression and didn’t seek any medical attention because of the way medical professionals treat them.
Another study conducted on 50 transwomen showed that these people suffer from severe identity crisis, which leads to the persistent need of sex change and gender change.
Tobacco abuse in transgender community is higher than the others, according to statics more than 30,000 individuals die because of this every year.
WHO along with several countries including India is working on introducing better guidelines and reforms to aid this cause and give a normal life to this community, not only this India has introduced reservation for the people of the trans community in educational institutions and jobs by bringing them under the OBC category? The court also ruled out that fundamental rights given in the Indian Constitution are also for the protection of the interests of this community much like every other citizen.
Supreme Court has also decriminalised section 377 of the IPC giving them proper recognition legally. Various other states like Chhattisgarh which has started employing transgenders to the police force, and Odisha which provides food grains and other goods to the trans community for free have stepped forward to help this community and live a better life.
Thus, I think its time for our country to buckle up and bring these people to the mainstream, and give them what’s their due. The authorities should work in removing the homophobia and social stigma related to this community. They should be provided proper health insurance with subsidised medical treatment.
So, that these people live a normal life like everybody and express themselves without fear.