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‘Taali’ Deserves Applause, But What More Needs To Be Done For The Trans Community?

'Taali' is a wonderful series to watch, but when it comes to the rights of trans gender people, what are the ground realities?

Biopics are my favourite genre of cinematic expression and the web series ‘Taali’ gave me goosebumps, and hope.

Gripping and impactful, it tells the story of the courage and determination of transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant, powerfully essayed by Sushmita Sen.

Born in Pune, Gauri as a child (known as Ganesh) liked dressing up as a girl and dancing.

All I want to be is a mother

In a significant scene in the web series, one day in school when the teacher asked her what she wanted to be, she answered: “A mother”. She was ridiculed by classmates and made to stand outside the class. From there began her struggle to be accepted in spite of being different.

Having lost her loving, supportive mother and finding it difficult to live with a police officer father who did not accept her, Gauri left home as a teenager and came to Mumbai. Soon, she realised that unless she became one of them, the transgender community would not accept her. So, she underwent a risky sex change operation.

Landmark judgement

Shreegauri Sawant founded the Sakhi Trust in 2000 which counsels transgenders and urges them to adopt safe sex practices. Having a strong maternal instinct, she filed a petition in the Supreme Court for adoption rights for transgenders.

Shreegauri was also a petitioner in the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) case of 2013. The Supreme Court delivered its landmark verdict in that case in 2014 recognising persons belonging to the transgender community as the third gender.

Five years later the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, was passed. The Act prohibits discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to education, employment and healthcare, among other facilities.

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Ground reality

Let’s come to the ground reality. The 2011 census put the number of transgenders at 4.88 lakh. The number must be much higher now. How far have the SC verdict and the 2019 Act really improved the lives of the trans community in India? What more can be done to address inclusivity challenges?

Dr Bittu Rajaraman, associate professor of biology and psychology at Ashoka University, is a transman and a vocal activist for the rights of the transgender and queer communities in India.

“The SC verdict was useful in giving some recognition to the trans people. They could get documentation in their preferred names and genders. There was also some recognition by educational institutions of the discrimination faced by this group. However, many measures suggested by the SC have not been implemented.”

No penalty

As for the 2019 Act, Dr. Rajaraman says it prohibits but does not penalise discrimination. The penalties for physical and sexual violence are minimal, though that is better than nothing. There has been failure to recognise the scope and extent of violence faced by these groups, he adds.

“The trans community is not given safety and the opportunities that it deserves. What can really help the community are measures to provide safety, basic housing, education, employment, healthcare and old-age care,” he says.

Ahmedabad-based sociologist Dr Gaurang Jani has a special interest and expertise in gender studies and has worked extensively with the trans community. “These days there is more talk about the trans community, particularly in urban areas.

Still, there are many misconceptions. We should include information about transgenders in the school and college curricula. Only then will awareness be built and acceptance follow,” he says. Ten years ago, when he was teaching at Gujarat University, Dr Jani introduced the autobiography of transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi in the MPhil curriculum.

Major hurdles

“A major hurdle that the trans community faces is non-acceptance by influential, conservative segments of society. Moreover, the SC had suggested that transgenders be included among the OBCs (which will entitle them to reservation). However, that is proving a complicated issue. Very few films, except a few recent ones, present the trans community in a sensitive manner. Even some people writing on gender do not talk of the third gender. As far as basic necessities go, there need to be more public toilets for transgenders. It is also important to give increased visibility to this group at all forums,” says Dr Jani.

Looking on the bright side, just as ‘Taali’ brings hope, some recent developments do so too. For instance, the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 provides for setting up a Gender Inclusion Fund for girls and transgender students.

Also, companies in the interest of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) are opening their doors to the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s a small beginning, but that’s how all good things begin, don’t they?

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Image Source: Still from the series ‘Taali’ on Jio Cinema

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About the Author

Aruna Raghuram

I am a freelance journalist and write on parenting, personalities, women’s issues, environment, and other social causes. read more...

19 Posts | 13,924 Views

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