In November 2015, the Kerala government created history by becoming the first Indian state to unveil a policy for transgender persons. However, seven months later, the ground reality appears no different with no major implementation breakthroughs.
This slack in implementation measures has left the initially appreciative transgender community rather skeptical.
Akkai Padmashali, a noted transsexual-gender minority activist, was present during the unveiling and was handed a copy of the 'State Policy for Transgenders in Kerala 2015' by then State Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson. However, she feels that the policy on paper alone cannot bring about real change.
“The policy is definitely a step in the right direction but the state and central governments need to put more effort if they want to bring the community to the mainstream. The policy alone will not help in removing the social stigma attached to the community,” she said.
She further accused the Kerala state government of double standards. “On one hand they introduce such policies and on the other, they do not take any serious action against the human rights violations against our members. This exposes the double standards of the government,” she added.
Sonu, a member of the community feels that the execution of the policy leaves much to be desired. He argued that while the document aims to ensure equal social and economic opportunities, little has been done to achieve it.
“The policy talks about creating job opportunities for the transgender community, but nothing is happening on-ground. The government has not created enough jobs for people like us,” argues Sonu.
Sonu also mentions the lack of hospitals offering health services to transgender community. “There are no hospitals in Kerala that offer counselling services to our people. We have to travel to other cities to get access to these services. This is a very sad state of affairs,” he added.
Vineeth, another transgender man, reiterated Sonu’s concerns.
“People have to go to Chennai, Bengaluru and Coimbatore for the surgeries and other related health services. The government must provide adequate health services to the people of the state.”
According to Vineeth, the policy also fails to address the hierarchy within the transgender community as well as the resulting prejudice.
“There are a lot of stereotypes associated with our community and most people do not trust us mainly because certain sections of our community are involved in prostitution, begging among other things. However, it is the socio-economic conditions of these people that drive them towards doing such things. The policy offers nothing for the empowerment of such people. Yes, the policy does guarantee jobs and benefits but it is all for the educated ones,” said Vineeth.
Vineeth also offers a unique perspective on the “third gender” category created by the government. “The very term creates a sense of alienation. It should be either female or male. When you create a separate category named third gender, it automatically creates a perception about us being different from others.”
Akkai, Sonu and Vineeth also emphasise the importance of generating awareness accompanied by policy to enable wholesome progression for the transgender community.
“The policy can be successful only if we cultivate a sense of awareness among people about the community. Otherwise the policy is of no use,” said Sonu.