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regular-article-logo Thursday, 25 July 2024

Lok Sabha polls: Assam transgenders seek better healthcare, jobs, laws against bullying

Assam has 414 third gender voters, including the highest in Nagaon with 86, followed by Tinsukia (36), Kamrup (Metro) at 34, Kamrup (Rural) at 29, Sonitpur (24) and Barpeta (21)

PTI Guwahati Published 09.04.24, 01:00 PM
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Representational Image File photo

Equal access to employment opportunities, legal safeguard against bullying and improved healthcare are among some of the pressing issues that the transgender community in Assam want political parties to address.

Assam has 414 third gender voters, including the highest in Nagaon with 86, followed by Tinsukia (36), Kamrup (Metro) at 34, Kamrup (Rural) at 29, Sonitpur (24) and Barpeta (21), according to official data.

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Milin Dutta, founder of the non-profit 'Anaajoree', emphasised on the prevalence of stigma and discrimination, which prevents many eligible transgender voters from exercising their franchise.

Dutta underscored the need for prioritising education, healthcare and employment opportunities for the community to ensure their safety and productivity in society.

"There are many more eligible voters in the community, who are yet to come out as transgenders due to the fear of stigma and discrimination by their family and the society at large,” Dutta told PTI.

"Education, health facilities and job opportunities for the community must be given top priority by the elected government for the safety of the queer community and to ensure they become productive citizens," he said.

Dr Sammy, an assistant professor at Tezpur University, highlighted the urgent need for legal protections, skill enhancement, educational institution and affirmative healthcare for the community members.

The academic advocated the enactment of laws defending transgender rights, including legal recognition of gender identity and protection from violence and prejudice.

Issues such as discrimination by medical professionals and the unaffordable cost of transition-related healthcare have also been raised, bringing to the fore the need for government-funded support services in hospitals.

Dutta pointed out that many members of the community face discrimination even from doctors, with some from government hospitals calling them to their chambers and charging exorbitant fees.

"Government hospitals should also be funded and equipped to help those trans individuals who want to go through the transition process by providing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treatment, counselling, gender reassignment surgery, pre and post-operative care," the 'Anaajoree' founder said.

A trans man, who preferred anonymity, said though he fulfills all the conditions to become a voter, he did not register himself as a third gender as he is yet to recover from the physical and mental trauma he had to endure after declaring his gender identity to family members.

Dutta said proper mental health services must be provided, as there is a high rate of suicide, and fees should be fixed at a minimum affordable rate.

"They suffer from gender dysphoria due to a mismatch between biological sex and their gender identity. This sense of unease or dissatisfaction may be so intense that it can lead to depression and anxiety, with a harmful impact on their life,” he said.

The parent of a transgender girl, Indrani Chakraborty, told PTI that there is a need for government intervention on expensive cosmetic surgeries, which may be a luxury for the general public, but a necessity for transgenders.

"The documentation process is not yet smooth in spite of the Transgender Protection Act, with the departments concerned not yet fully aware, creating a big hindrance in the way of their upliftment,” she said.

Dr Sammy also said there should be legal recognition of queer-chosen families and friendships.

"This is especially important for a lot of queer people, who do not feel safe within their birth families and have created a family of chosen friends, parental figures and partners. During times of medical crisis, these chosen family members should be empowered legally to be able to aid each other," the academic said.

The Congress, in its manifesto, has said the party will bring in a law to recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, Dr Sammy said.

Dutta pointed out that political parties should also make a commitment to passing anti-discrimination legislation that safeguard the community people in public services, employment, healthcare and education.

Another trans member, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they are a vulnerable section of society subject to harassment from people as well as police when they are approached for help.

"Awareness and sensitisation programmes must be made mandatory in schools and other educational institutions, which will not only create a healthy environment for transgenders, but also stop school dropouts, discrimination and harassment," Chakraborty pointed out.

"The goal should be to ensure that future generations of transgenders become productive citizens of society, and are not reduced to just begging on the streets," Dutta added.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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