Kerala makes history as first state to unveil TG policy

Policy presented at inaugural function of first ICGE

Thiruvananthapuram, November 12: Kerala became the first Indian state to release a State Policy for Transgenders, when Chief Secretary Shri Jiji Thomson handed over a copy of the document to activist Akkai Padmashali, amid cheers and loud applause at the first International Conference on Gender Equality.

“The policy will not remain merely in rulebooks, but will be monitored,” assured Shri Thomson.

The genesis of the policy lies in a Supreme Court judgment of April 2014 establishing the right to equality and equal protection for transgender persons (TGs). The judgment also issues a directive to the Centre and state governments to grant TGs full legal recognition of their gender identity, including extending reservations in education and employment, and providing separate HIV servo-surveillance for TGs.

The Social Justice Department undertook a state-wide survey which found the TGs to be at a severe disadvantage and facing harassment at home, in educational institutions, at work and in public service institutions. The compiled statistics are revealing: 58 per cent drop out of school before completing class ten, only 11.6 per cent have a regular job. Because of the large scale harassment from the police, 96 per cent do not raise complaints against violence, 51 per cent are denied equal treatment in hospitals.

The policy covers all categories of TGs, including female to male, male to female and intersex people. Broken up into four categories of right to equality, right to dignity and a life without violence, right to freedom of expression, and equal voice and participation in development, the policy covers the gamut of areas that give TGs the opportunity to access opportunities, resources and benefits.

The policy document aims to address inequities in education, health and public appointment and also proposes mechanisms, such as including TG as a third gender in application forms, take steps to prevent TGs from being punished or harassed for cross-dressing, provide opportunities for enhancing their artistic skills to facilitate their participation in state and other festivals. To enable a life free of violence, they will be provided free legal aid and disciplinary action will be taken against police who violate their human rights.

They will be given equitable rights in public decision making bodies that affect them. It is expected that TG Justice Board, which will be established under the Department of Social Justice and chaired by the Social Justice Minister, will monitor, oversee and issue guidelines to government departments for the implementation of the TG policy.

 “The route to building a non-homophobic society is a constant process,” said Bangalore-based Akkai. “There are still issues of social exclusion, such as Section 377, and we have to do something to combat it.”

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