The arrest of four transgender women in Kochi on Friday, in what the police are claiming is an ‘online sex racket bust’, has created a massive furore in the state. The transgender community in Kerala has alleged that the cases slapped against the women who were arrested are false.
With one of the arrested women – 34-year-old Saya – attempting suicide inside the police station, the anger against the police and the government is palpable.
Transgender activist and popular celebrity makeup artiste Renju Renjimar told TNM that contrary to the image the Kerala government is trying to portray, the state is a far cry from being transgender-friendly.
"Kerala is not at all transgender friendly, I will not agree if someone says that. We have been repeatedly meeting CM Pinarayi Vijayan and appealing to him to stop harassing our community members. We want to know for what reason we are being targeted on a daily basis. There may be cases where transgender persons are at fault, but in this particular case, we are 100% sure that the case is false," an angry Renju said.
"They have booked the four of them for immoral trafficking. But for that, somebody else should be there in the room with them. But they were alone in the lodge. The police have also slapped section 377 and have not even done the mandatory medical check up. On one hand, the government is trying to do things to convey that it supports transgender community, but on the other hand, the same government is promoting such policemen who are targeting us," Renju added.
While a transgender justice board was formed by the state government, the board has been given little space to work freely, Renju pointed out.
Saying that she had earlier believed that Kerala was indeed moving towards change in terms of its treatment of the transgender community, Renju said she no longer believed so.
“I had thought there was at least a 50% change in the way we are treated, but now I can say there is not even a 10% change. The police have absolutely no awareness about our community at all, they just want to eliminate us," she added.
Lawyer and an active human rights activist who has represented the transgender community in several cases, Maya Krishnan said that the Kerala police is increasingly becoming transphobic.
In many previous cases, transgender persons who went to file police complaints were in fact targeted and made the accused, Maya pointed out.
"This CI, in particular, is a transphobic officer. They have an agenda, it is very clear now. They are here to eliminate transgender persons from the state. May be even 'remove' them, like one would remove waste from the roads. Policemen are the closest entity of the government that the general public can see and they are bound to protect our fundamental rights. But what happens is Kerala is that the police itself violates the basic human rights of transgender persons," advocate Maya said.
While Kerala is being projected as a transgender-friendly state, with several of its policies and 'inclusive programmes' for the community catching national and international headlines, the reality couldn't be more deceiving, advocate Maya felt.
"Our government is selling the Kerala model of development, which is urging transgender persons from other states to come to Kerala and live here thinking it’s a safe place. But they come here, they realise that the state police is on an agenda to wipe them out," she said.
Vihaan Peethambar, also a member of the transgender justice board pointed out that it was the mere lack of senstitisation of people who are supposed to implement the transgender policy, that has resulted in the continued harassment of the community.
"There is a policy, which is a good thing, but people are not aware of this, there is minimal awareness. Policy is not being implemented even after 2 years since it came, and it shows that its been of no use at all. Government officials don't know how to implement it, they don't have the awareness within the government itself. Social justice department doesn't have the resources or the awareness to implement it," he said.
Vihaan accused the police of trying to cover up their fault in beating up 2 transgender persons in Kozhikode.
"This Kochi arrest is a planned attempted at defacing the community. With the recent incident that happened in Kozhikode, it almost feels like a conspiracy," he said.
Speaking to Newsport.in, transgender activist Sheethal Shyam said that the case against the four transgender women was fabricated.
In the last week of December, two transgender women were beaten up by the police in Kozhikode and Sheethal believes that the police deliberately arrested transgender persons from Kochi.
"This is a game to undo the damage caused to the police regarding what happened in Kozhikode. That's why this made-up case has now surfaced," Sheethal said.