The Child Welfare Committee gave charge of protection of the student to a transgender activist, and has started gender awareness counselling for the parents of the teen.

Transgender teen forced to leave home Kerala Child Welfare Committee helps outImage for representation
news Gender Sunday, June 28, 2020 - 16:43

Last week, the Kerala Child Welfare Committee (CWC) came to the rescue of a 17-year-old student who was forced to leave home due to the mental harassment she suffered from her family after expressing her transgender identity. CWC came to know about the issue through the police, and intervened in the matter. In an interim order issued on Friday, they gave charge of the student to a transgender activist. They have also started counselling the family members to bring sensitisation about gender and sexuality.

According to officials of CWC, it was earlier this month that the class 12 student from Malappuram district in Kerala, left home following the mental harassment, seeking shelter with a transgender person in the district.

“The student was assigned male gender at birth, but she identifies as a girl. Recently, she opened up to her family about this, and ever since, the student was mentally harassed which made her leave home,” said Thanooja, a CWC member from Malappuram.

“The student came to know of a transgender activist in Malappuram, and sought shelter with her. Her birth family forcefully tried to bring her back home, but she resisted, stating that she would be again harassed by the family. The officials of Perinthalmanna police station informed us (CWC) about the issue after the family filed a complaint stating that the teen had gone missing,” Thanooja added.

According to the official, the parents of the student lacked awareness about gender identities, and that has led the student to go through a lot of mental trauma. Realising this, CWC has started to sensitise the parents so that the teen can return back home.

But as the present situation is not favourable for the student, CWC gave charge of the student temporarily for a month to transgender activist and model Riya Isha, recognising her as the ‘fit person’ as per the section 52 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

A 'fit person' is someone whom the officials after verification of credentials, recognise to be fit to 'temporarily receive a child for care, protection and treatment for a specific period'.

“If we send the student with the family, she may again leave home. We are holding counselling separately for the student and the parents. In the first sitting of the counselling itself, we had been successful in making the parents understand about various gender identities. Before the counselling, they were saying they do not want to see the child again, but after the first round of counselling itself there has been a change. They have agreed to meet with the student once in a week to hold talks with the help of CWC. We are hopeful that the family can be sensitised and the student will be able to continue to live with the parents,” said Thanooja.

She said that the student has also expressed interest to go back to the family once the parents are aptly sensitised.

According to the officials, it was the first time that an issue of a transgender teen is coming to the consideration of CWC. “There might be many more instances like this, but often it goes unnoticed. The discourse on gender and sexuality should be wider and it should reach people in all strata of society,” added Thanooja. 

Read: How to report about LGBTQIA+ people: Guidelines for journalists

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