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The story of Lalit Kumar Salve, who recently underwent sex realignment surgery and rejoined duty as a constable, is an uplifting one. But, a lot still has to be done when it comes to transgender rights in India.
“Constable Lalit Kumar reporting sir!” Those were the words Lalit had awaited to utter, for past four years. Story of Lalit Kumar Salve, a constable from Beed district, Maharashtra is a milestone in our society. It is the story of Lalita- who was born with the intersex phenotype- and her transformation to Lalit.
Lalit Kumar Salve was born intersex, and was assigned female at birth because the male genitals were not well developed like they are in boys. The surgeons performed a genital reconstruction surgery. Salve has one testicle; the other one was removed when he was a child.
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His story is an example of acceptance shown by the society. “After the surgery I have started calling Salve, Lalit Kumar. She has come a long way and we are sure that like the first, the second surgery will also be a success,” Salve’s uncle Arjun Ujagrea had said.
Lalit Kumar Salve walks out as a new man after his discharge from St George hospital, where he underwent a genital reconstruction surgery last month. Attired in smart-fit khakhi uniform and blue beret, Constable Lalit Kumar Salve saluted his superiors and rejoined duty a month after undergoing sex reassignment surgery. Now as a man, he would sport the dark blue beret meant for male constables.
The journey had not been an easy one for Lalit. In India, there is an absence of the third gender clause in the application forms.This makes it difficult for a transgender to apply and seek jobs in the mainstream. However, Supreme Court in its Judgement from 2014, which stated that transgender should be recognised under the third gender category and should be allowed to apply for jobs or admission to educational institutions under the same, has opened the gates of opportunities for transgender minorities. This is a progressive trend, which was implemented by the State of Tamil Nadu. The state has been lauded for its progressive approach towards the often-marginalised transgender community. Last year, Prithika Yashini from Tamil Nadu became the first transgender person to be recruited as a sub-inspector in India.
The first and foremost hurdle that comes in the journey of persons like Lalit is, acceptance- Acceptance for who they are. Socially speaking, it is an issue of stigma, shame and discrimination. They have to fight two battles simultaneously. First battle is within, to accept their own identity. Second battle is with the society, to make people understand that it is normal to be born with these features.
Add to this, the constant humiliation they face amongst peers for being different is disheartening.The financial and psychological support from the family is also rare in such circumstances. That is why when a story of Lalit, outshining the entire social, physical and financial trauma, to emerge as a new identity comes, it needs to be celebrated. It has to be promoted so that the stigma attached with the third gender can be removed. They have to be accepted as normal citizens of the nation and members of society.
There is need of change in laws to accommodate the third gender in mainstream. Most of the transgender are forced into prostitution and organised begging as the social discrimination doesn’t allow them proper education or job opportunities. This in turn makes them more vulnerable towards sexual abuse and HIV and other deadly infections. They have to live a life of shame and hate. What the affluent or so called normal members of society often forget to understand is that it’s the nature that made them like this. They didn’t choose it. They have every right to be treated as normal dignified human being.
People like, Lalit are at a better position with education and family support to fight all kind of legal battles for their rights. The support shown by Lalit’s family and relatives as well as his professional department is commendable. I would like to make a special mention about how his Aunt Vidya Salve, who had placed a topi and wrapped a gamcha around his neck, a customary sign of welcoming male guests. The Salve family now proudly claims of having three sons. It takes lot of courage for family members to stand in support of such sensitive issues.
However, a bigger part of transgender population is not that fortunate. There is lot to be done yet. Sensitizing people is one of the first steps. So, when next time you see a transgender begging at a traffic signal or train, don’t hate him. Try to see the human being in him. That is the least you can do, which will initiate a change. Laws, reservations, financial aids, government schemes and support are later steps. May 17 is observed worldwide as International day against Homophobia and Transphobia.
India fails to partake prominently in this fight. Rajya Sabha had passed a Bill in 2015, making a provision of 2% reservation in educational institutes and jobs for the third gender members. The change cannot be brought about only through paper work and laws. An open, rational mindset free from prejudices is required for this sensitive issue. It is not a gender issue. It is more of a human rights issue.
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