With an aim to protect human rights, the Institute For Pluralism has been striving to bring transgenders on the same platform along with the males and females. They have been working for their rights even before the Supreme Court recognised transgender as the third gender in a landmark judgment in April.
The institute, set up in 2011, organised the third passing-out ceremony for its students at Hotel Royal Highness here on Sunday.
Speaking at the event, director of SAFAR, Sophia Khan, said: “Pluralism is moving beyond diversity. It aims to encourage inclusive talk and create linkages. Transgenders are also human beings. They do have feelings like us. We are focusing on human rights and it is their right to be treated equal.”
According to Khan, the institute had three batches till 2014 and each batch had at least four transgenders. Initially, students were hesitant to accept them and were found reluctant to share the dais with them, she said adding that things gradually changed and they were taught to realise that it was just a biological difference and it was normal that they got attracted to the same sex.
It may be noted that the institute is an initiative of SAFAR, a women’s group working for human rights. Regarding the institute, she said, “It offers a systematic knowledge on how to think rationally to change things. The course aims to increase solidarity among people for peace and justice. It helps in changing the mindset, attitude and practices of individuals. It asks people to transform conflicts constructively. Our country has a huge diversity and its richness needs to be understood. This is one of the attempts. It also strengthens the constitutional values.”
Kamlesh Vyas, 32, a transgender, who works as a senior executive with an NGO and a student of the third batch, said: “It was a great platform as we were not only treated equals but also learnt about the attitude of people towards caste, religion, justice, women’s rights.Our batchmates were very supportive. They listened to our problems, understood and came out of the stereotypes they had it in their mind regarding us.” The programme calls for more interaction with males and females which will bridge the gap, he said and added that they screened films, conducted surveys, distributed reading materials on peace and justice as a part of the programme.
“It is often said that minorities, dalits, tribals and women are neglected in the society but none care for us. This is certainly a good initiative. The programme gives priority to dialogue rather than controversy,” said Kamlesh. Another 23-year-old transgender, Darshan, who is an outreach worker in Girdharlal Sanghralay, Bal Bhavan Centre, said: “Despite having good qualifications and knowledge in computers, I felt depressed as people used to make fun of me. Meanwhile, I knew about this programme and it helped me boost my confidence. Both males and females were initially reluctant but our sensible behaviour touched them. They had the stereotypes and doubts in their minds which they clarified with us and made us friends. They have accepted us and it was wonderful to discuss human rights, justice, peace with them.”
Yet another 27-year-old, Mallika Patel, who works with an NGO, said: “They were scared of us initially. They felt that we will get angry with them but their opinions gradually changed. They have realised that we have our identity and they have accepted us as a community.”
Students from various districts of the state, including Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Amreli, have participated in the project. The institute aims to spread this programme in other states also like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and others. Various NGOs, MSW students, teachers and project holders also take part in the programme.