December 9th, 2015
Image Source: aljazeera
On 12th November, the state of Kerala became the first in the country to roll out a transgender policy, a first of its kind, envisaging to end the societal stigma towards the sexual minority group and ensure them non-discriminatory treatment.
In order to understand the issues faced by Transgender (TG) society, the Social Justice Department (SJD) of Kerala conducted a state-wide survey covering the following aspects of their social, economic and personal life: (a) Basic details, (b) Awareness about one’s body, (c) Civil rights, (d) Self esteem, (e) Access to health services and (f) Ability to live with dignity and with freedom from violence.
The Kerala State’s Transgender Policy Based on the findings of the survey as well as to enforce the constitutional rights of TGs, taking into account the Supreme Court judgement (2014), the Government of Kerala drafted a policy for the TG through a consultative process.
Accordingly, the TG Policy supports the attainment of
- A just society where men, women, and TGs have equal rights to access development opportunities, resources, and benefits .
- The right to live with dignity and enjoy a life free from all forms of violence.
- The right to freedom of expression in all matters that affect them and
- Right to equal voice and participation in key development decisions that shape their lives, communities, and the state.
Implementation and Monitoring of the Policy An accountability framework has been designed for the policy implementations. This framework includes the creation of a State TG Justice Board and District TG Justice Committees under the Department of Social Justice, Government of Kerala. Both the board and the committees include members from the government and nominated members representing the TG community. Their functional coverage ensures that the TG policy is implemented, ensure equality and equity of TGs, and facilitate awareness programmes. Furthermore, the District TG Committee has the responsibility of implementing and monitoring programmes for the social, economic and political developments of TGs.
The monitoring of the state’s gender policy is based on 4 pillars of the framework: Equal and Equitable Rights; Freedom of Expression; Life with Dignity and Life without Violence; and Voice and Participation.
International Conference on Gender Equality 2015 Kerala is the first state in the country to release the Transgender policy with envisioning the end of social stigma and injustice faced by them at every turn of their life. The policy was officially released at the International Conference on Gender Equality 2015 (12-14 November 2015, Kovalam, Trivandrum), by Hon. Governor of Kerala, Sri. Justice P. Sathasivam. He handed over the policy to Ms. Akkai Padmashali, founder of Ondede, Bangalore.
A panel of eminent speakers discussed the TG policy throwing light on various key questions like : Is the results framework for addressing TG issues appropriate? Is the rights based approach strong enough? Are the broad underlying principles sufficient to address TG needs? and more.
Spreading Awareness and Miss Outs in the Policy Kerala being the first state to release the transgender policy, its impact is yet to be awaited. The formulation of the policy has faced a non-inclusion of the members from the TG community itself. This non-inclusion has aroused dissatisfaction among many member of the community, including Ms. Akkai Padmashali. She highlighted that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was not included in the policy, which equates non-heterosexual activities to crime, while she spoke about it during the plenary session at ICGE 2015. She also emphasized that the TG policy should have a clear-cut plan and well-designed awareness programs to eliminate stigma attached to TG identities. A conservative society like Kerala needs to include these programs through awareness to reduce the issues faced by the TG community.
By Soniya Vijayakumar