The movement to pose a legal challenge to the Supreme Court order criminalising homosexuality through Section 377 has now got a decisive shot in the arm. In the wake of the regressive recent Supreme Court verdict, overturning an earlier high court judgment de-criminalising the gay, transgender community, the government has now filed a review petition challenging the Supreme Court verdict. The Naz Foundation, on whose petition the Delhi High Court had decriminalised gay sex, has also petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay on making gay sex a punishable offence.
The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) community is a marginalised lot, because of the large-scale discrimination they face at every level of society. They have to constantly battle with the regressive perception of being ‘abnormal’. with the present law contributing in no small measure to fuel rigid, hostile attitudes. However, a lot has changed in the last 10 years, more so after the landmark Delhi High Court judgment in 2009 decriminalising homosexuality. Once mortally scared of revealing their sexual identity, LGBTs have come out of the closet in their struggle to be heard and accepted. There are several heart-warming stories of how people from the community have surmounted staggering odds to gain legitimate familial and social acceptance. Consider this latest case involving a transexual who runs a highly successful dhaba on NH4 highway, 200 kms from Bangalore. Her four employees are also transexuals who used to beg for a living before getting employment in the roadside eatery.
Interestingly, what matters to the patrons, which includes truck drivers and families from nearby areas, is the delicious spread the owner Bhavana Thimmappa offers. Their initial tentativeness has given way to admiration for her culinary skills.
The measures to integrate transexuals, the most impoverished and exploited section in the LGBT community, into the mainstream, have come from several quarters, including the Election Commission, the Supreme Court and the Government of India. In 2009, the EC took the right step by including some 5 million transexuals in the Other category because of their reluctance to be slotted as either man or woman. The Government in the second phase of Aadhar, which entitles the poor to government subsidies, has made separate provisions for registering transexuals as ‘T’ to recognise their unique status. Last year, the apex court, following a National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) petition sought responses from the Centre and state governments about their views on including a third category for transgenders in application forms for ration cards, driving licence and, most importantly, in admission forms of educational institutions.
But the most revolutionary move came from Tamil Nadu with the state government recognising transgenders as the Third sex. They have been issued ration cards in which they have been allowed to identify themselves as T.
It is common knowledge that transgenders have limited employment opportunities. They mostly beg. In Mumbai, they are a common sight at traffic junctions and in suburban trains. Some of them are pushed into prostitution, and the more desperate ones enter the crime world. The Maharashtra government took a significant step this year when it announced its intention of setting up of a board for the welfare of transgenders. If states take such bold, positive measures in a sustained manner there is hope for this community living on the fringes of an indifferent society.