‘Badhais’ criminalised, LGBT community opposes LS Bill : The Tribune India

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‘Badhais’ criminalised, LGBT community opposes LS Bill

JALANDHAR: At the office of the Shaan Foundation, which works with the LGBT community in the district, transgender persons begin a gathering early in the day, holding a ‘siyappa’ (a mourning rite).

‘Badhais’ criminalised, LGBT community opposes LS Bill

Members of the transgender community in Jalandhar. Tribune photo



Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 23

At the office of the Shaan Foundation, which works with the LGBT community in the district, transgender persons begin a gathering early in the day, holding a ‘siyappa’ (a mourning rite).

Cheekily, one of them chants, “Sarkar da siyappa kar rahe haan. Sade dhidd te latt marti” (We are protesting against the government. It has snatched our livelihood). Angered over the hurriedly passed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, in the Lok Sabha which criminalises ‘begging’, members of the community have been holding this rite to express their angst against the government. Collecting ‘badhais’ at weddings and birth ceremonies is the primary means of livelihood for a vast majority of transgender persons in the region.

While at least two per cent of the population of the state comprises transgender persons, the population of the community members in Jalandhar alone is over 2,000. At least 70 per cent of transgender persons across the state earn their living by seeking ‘badhais’. Around 15 deras in the city comprise communities of transgender persons.

On the top of it, with many of them involved in sex work, the city has also seen gruesome murders like the one in which the arm of a transgender person was chopped and she was left to die in July this year. Another from Khera village was found hanging from a tree after a bitter feud, several months later.

Mahant Mona, a transgender person who is the head of a local dera which primarily comprises community members, said, “What will we eat if our basic right to livelihood is snatched? Generations of our community have been bred on this profession. I have two generations of shagirds (disciples) who only know seeking ‘badhais’. We can’t even find jobs now. The government is criminalising the profession without arranging any alternative jobs for us.”

A Jalandhar-based transgender person Ritika, who is working with a local NGO, said, “The Bill mandates a screening committee to formally declare our gender. Men and women don’t have to go through that. I wouldn’t like someone screening me for my gender. This is discriminatory and a rude shock.”

Mahant Rupali, working at a dera, said, “Our community is already discriminated against. In the past six months, two members of our community have fallen prey to violence. Now, the government is further imperilling a community already under attack.”

Deepak Rana, CEO, Shan Foundation, said, “Majority of transgender persons seek ‘badhais’ for a living. It is a tradition which has been supported for ages. There are several other discriminatory recommendations of the Bill. While a woman’s rapist is to be subjected to seven years in jail, the punishment for a transgender person’s rapist has been reduced to two years. Is their pain any different? Screening committees and criminalisation of begging are the last thing we need.”

The community members also plan to hold a protest on the issue in the coming days.

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