ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘We Were, Are, and Will Remain Discriminated Against’

Status of Transgender Persons in Odisha

That transgender persons are discriminated against and victimised in society has been widely recognised. However, in light of progressive judicial and state interventions, has the status of transgender persons improved? Through an analysis of narratives of transgender persons, with respect to their sociopolitical position, economic security, political participation, and health services available to them, an attempt has been made to understand the living conditions of transgender persons in Odisha, and provide a qualitative account of their status in society.

Transgender persons defy mainstream notions of gender, and have struggled for identity and equality in India, just as they have in many other parts of the world. Traditionally, transgender persons were once a part of the broader culture across the country and treated with respect. However, with the advent of colonialism, these sexual minorities were vilified and excluded from society (Chakrapani 2010). Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was used extensively to victimise transgender persons, and they were treated as criminals in breach of public decency, which led to the complete ostracisation and alienation of the transgender community from mainstream society. Post independence, the Indian Constitution ensured equality, liberty, and fundamental rights for all citizens, and endorsed the universal declaration of the right to equality and protection against any discrimination. Unfortunately, studies have revealed that transgender persons have continued to be subjected to human rights violations, discrimination, and oppression (PUCL 2003; Chakrapani 2010; Goel and Nayar 2012; HRLN 2015; Jos 2017, Mohanty and Padhi 2018).

The path-breaking judgment by the Supreme Court inNational Legal Services Authority v Union of India (2014) reignited hope for the transgender community. The apex court upheld the right of transgender persons to self-determine their gender. It directed the state to grant them a legal identity as the third gender, and advised the government to take all the steps necessary to bring them into mainstream society. The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2015, added momentum to the ongoing fight for the rights of transgender persons (Anuvinda and Siva 2016). Unfortunately, the bill did not receive the approval of the Lok Sabha, and the government subsequently introduced another bill, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 (GoI 2016). The new bill has been criticised (Anuvinda and Siva 2016; Jos 2017) and is yet to overcome numerous formal and legal hurdles. Meanwhile, following the Supreme Court judgment, many states have begun working towards the welfare of the transgender community (HRLN 2015; Singha 2015; Augustine 2016).

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