Andhra Pradesh has now followed in Tamil Nadu and Kerala’s footsteps to establish a welfare board for transgender persons in the state. They launched the ‘Andhra Pradesh Hijra Transgender Welfare Board’ on Thursday at the Sri Venkateshwara University in Tirupati, and the move was welcomed by the trans community in Andhra.
Rachana Mudraboyini, a transgender rights activists who was part of the inauguration ceremony, said she hopes that the board would help the community fight for their rights.
“I hope the board will help prevent sexual, mental and physical harassment we are subjected to very often,” Rachana told TNM.
“This, as a recognised organisation might help us with money and education too,” she added.
The welfare board will be run by direct democracy by the community, Rachana said, with special voting rights for the minorities. The board is also expected to help the members of the transgender community have access to the government welfare schemes.
The move comes years after the Supreme Court in the NALSA case ordered that transgender persons have a right to self identify, and also ordered the Centre and state governments to take steps for protecting their rights.
While other states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal have set up welfare boards and policies for transgender persons, this is the first time that Andhra has formulated a policy to help transgender persons get education and jobs, and also provide economic assistance to them.
In a seminar following the launch of the board, members of the transgender community discussed the issues they face on a daily basis including harassment, sexual abuse, neglect and ostracisation from society. They also put forth their demands, including laws to end discrimination, jobs, education, separate bathrooms, access to transport, access to burial grounds etc.
Rachana, who is based in Hyderabad, is now trying to organise another meeting in Amaravati to submit a memorandum to the state government to establish laws for the transgender community in the state.
Karthik Bittu Kondaiah, an associate professor at Ashoka University said that the welfare board is welcome, but a lot dependson how it is run and structured. While trans women who identify as hijra, aravani, mangalamukhi etc are visible in India, there is little awareness about other trans identities.
“A welfare board is a government institution. It should not be in any way a hierarchical structure. I hope that the welfare board will serve the young members of the community irrespective of their identities,” said Karthik.
“It should cater not only to visible trans women but also to trans men, gender fluid trans persons and give the minorities in the transgender community an opportunity to study or work,” he added.