news Monday, February 09, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | February 9, 2015 | 03:09 pm IST  The Chennai Corporation recently resorted to a rather odd measure when a high-end hotel in the city failed to pay property tax of Rs 33.9 lakh, despite repeated reminders. On Friday morning, the corporation officials reportedly reached the hotel in Guindy along with two drummers and transgenders.While the corporation carried banners with the message, of tax default by the hotel, clearly written on them, accompanying transgenders danced to the drumbeat attracting nearby crowd. The purpose was to 'embarrass' the hotel into paying the tax. A corporation official told The Times of India, "We had issued notices to the hotel, but got no response. A little embarrassment sometimes works more than threats". The idea worked with the company handing over the default amount soon after. However, not all seem to agree with the corporation's rather unusual 'drive', which it intends to continue. Jayashree, who has worked with transgenders as part of the Gates Foundation Programme, is of the opinion that such a step by a civic body will only reinforce stereotypes regarding the transgender community. "It is all the more sad that something like this happened in Tamil Nadu, where the state government has taken several measures, including welfare schemes, for the uplift of the transgender community", she said. "What the corporation did is a retrograde step. It is almost like getting henchmen to collect one's dues. And it is all the more awkward coming from a official government machinery", she adds. Although right in demanding its dues from the hotel, Jayashree feels, that the government may have overstepped the line this time. Jayashree, who managed the Behaviour Change Programme under the Gates Foundation Programme, says "Transgenders want to be treated in par with other human beings". "If you put them in a place of dignity, people will respect them. If you portray them as people who intimidate others, people will automatically associate them with intimidation", she asserts. In a particular project on HIV prevention that she worked on, transgenders were used for spreading awareness instead of being projected as a group which needed to be 'reformed'. The project was a huge success, without a single complaint regarding heckling. She feels the government’s move projected transgenders as negative role models which in a way setbacks the hard work of many like her. Art and culture over the years have also in a way fed the stereotypes regarding transgenders- a recent example being the movie 'I' which received severe backlash for its portrayal of the community. Read: You have taken "transphobia" to a new level- A transgender artist's open letter to Shankar However, this is not the first time members of the transgender community have been engaged by the government or any other organisation to give out a message- albeit in a different light. Last year advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, as part of a campaign, hired a group of transgenders to perform a synchronised demonstration on the importance of wearing seat belts. Titled The Seatbelt Crew, the video went viral and has garnered 4,707,319 till date just on YouTube. "Your car doesn't have an oxygen mask. Under your seat you won't find a life jacket. But you do have a seat belt. So why aren't you wearing it? "Your pretty face won't look good after an accident", says one transgender as the others in the group perform coordinated dance movements along with their signature clap. The Delhi Police also undertook a similar drive by involving transgenders in a bid to spread awareness about road safety. Just like The Seatbelt crew, the Delhi group took to the streets and through an organised performance asked people to be more careful on the roads. The campaign in the national capital also asked people to be more aware while boarding autos and taxis. For a government that first recognized transgenders as the third gender, the Chennai corporation's step ironically is one backwards. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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