Mumbai, Sept. 21: One crime against a woman has led to an atrocity against another sex — eunuchs.
After the rape of a young girl in a train last month, police here have stepped up the drive in local trains and stations to make travelling safer for women, rounding up anti-social elements, drunkards and vendors from platforms. But on September 11, they chose a soft target — two eunuchs waiting to board a train at Santa Cruz railway station.
“We were waiting on the platform when these policemen swooped down on us. They said our crime was that we would travel in the ladies compartment, making it unsafe for the women, and took us to Bandra police station. There they made us strip in full public view, to show everyone that we were not fit to travel in a ladies compartment,” said Manasa, who was taken to the police station along with companion Manisha.
“A crowd gathered around us. Police threw out whatever we were carrying in our bags, and jeered when they saw condoms,” she added.
She and Manisha work for the Humsafar Trust, a male sexual health agency. They work with HIV-positive people and advocate safe sex. Their work requires them to carry condoms.
“Then we were thrown into the lock-up for men. There were about 20 of them. Some of them just jumped on us, trying to molest us, when the policemen were not around. We were still without clothes. It was great fun for them,” said Manasa. “We stayed like that for three hours, till activists from Humsafar came and took us away after paying a fine.”
Police said the two eunuchs had been brought to the police station because they were travelling without tickets.
Manasa and Manisha, who admit they were ticketless, today addressed a press conference, organised by Humsafar, to protest against the police action.
Members of the Dai Welfare Society and the Arawanis Social Welfare Society, two eunuch organisations, also attended the press meet.
The incident has come to light mainly because Manasa and Manisha work for Humsafar. Otherwise, such incidents often go unreported, the eunuchs complained.
They want the government to do something about the harassment eunuchs face while travelling in local trains. Eunuchs have always faced the worst treatment while travelling, they said.
Rekha, who attended the press meet, says she was picked up while passing Bandra station and put in a lockup on September 10. She was released only after paying a “fine” of Rs 550.
Many eunuchs are arrested for travelling in the ladies coaches. “But how else can we travel' We feel safe with women. We don’t behave badly either,” says Laxmi, president of the Dai Welfare Society.
“If we get into the general compartment, men make life impossible for us. And when we get into the women’s compartment, the police beat us,” she adds. “We have nowhere to go.”
Radhika Mudhaliyar, president of the Arawanis Social Welfare Trust, has a suggestion. “Why doesn’t the government give us a special compartments, like the ones meant for the handicapped' We are also handicapped in society, aren’t we'”