The last few months, Ondede Swatantra has been in the forefront for spreading awareness on the rights and issues of transgender persons, especially in highlighting their civil rights, health rights etc. While our community advocates interacted with the community members, it came to our notice that a good bunch of the transgender individuals do not even have their Aadhar Card, Voter ID, BPL Card, Ration Card among others.
With the assembly polls fast approaching, and with Congress, BJP and Janata Dal contesting for elections, the voters have a chance to determine who will be running the State for the next 5 years. To ensure that every citizen above the age of 18 years gets enrolled on the voter list as it ones fundamental right to vote, there is a special drive that is organized by the Karnataka Chief Electoral Office to enrol women and people with disabilities, knows as ‘Minchina Nondani’ or quick registration. This special one-day camp is held on this coming Sunday ie., April 8th 2018 from 10am to 5 pm in all designated voting booths.
This camp gives all the citizens a chance to register themselves or even make corrections in their names if necessary. People can also check for their names in the list as having your voter ID does not entitle you to vote or does not necessarily mean your name is on the voters list. This drive is also to ensure that the electoral polls are accurate and to ensure all the citizens have registered.
Ondede Swatantra as an Organization have already started mobilizing community members who have not yet enrolled themselves on the list as this is their chance to come forward and make a difference.
Make sure your name is on the voters list!!
Ondede is a Kannada word for convergence. By recognizing and acknowledging existing movements, Ondede endeavors to link these different, but interrelated groups to various media platforms to foster productive community discourses, conduct research, and instigate action on dignity-voice-sexuality, and most crucially from the perspective of sexual minorities and transgender community. We envision a society that provides access in a non-discriminatory and gender-just way. We have also been working towards establishing linkages between different social movements, to increase evidence based advocacy in policy and to practice and provide platform for people and movements to come together.
Sexual minorities are usually termed as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons etc. Their sexual orientation, gender identity, practices and even family/institutional support structure are distinctly different from the majority of the society. It is only in the recent decade that the sexual minority and the transgender community have come to the fore front of the society as marginalized and discriminated groups based on their gender, sexuality and identity.
The need of the hour, we believe, is to understand and ensure a just, equitable and a more inclusive society, for these groups often have to face and deal with unsympathetic families, patriarchal and prejudiced society, disgruntled spouses or lovers who turn hostile or become extortionists.
Violence faced by these communities is often invisible or under reported in mainstream media. Further, an insensitive criminal justice system and a pre-colonial provision of Section 377 of the India Penal Code makes reporting even more difficult.
ACTION PLAN and METHODOLOGY
In this context, Ondede has taken a small initiative to understand sexual violence, domestic violence, sexuality rights and transgender rights from the perspectives and experiences of these communities by documenting the stories of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, Jogappas, transgender persons, gender non-confirming, intersex etc from across the State of Karnataka. Perspectives on these four themes will also be gathered from different stakeholders like the police departments, NGOs working with sexual minorities and women, government departments, State Human Rights Commission, hospitals etc.
The methodology used will draw upon the tools of feminist participatory research and seek to foreground personal testimonies while drawing out the larger context for the stories.
As an Organization working with the grass root communities, these case studies will help us in understanding and voicing the struggles of individuals from the sexual minority and the transgender community. It will also help us to analyse the current legal frame work by demonstrating the stark realities of harassment, abuse and violence that has become a part of their day-to-day existence and need to be included in the wider discourse on sexual and domestic violence as also on human rights and dignity. These case studies can also be used in the growing body of knowledge on these marginalized and invisibile communities that could inform ongoing activism and advocacy, even while developing a more informed and sensitive analytical framework for understanding the lives and realities of sexual minority and transgender communities.
In leadership of the community members who belongs to the working class demanded to include Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming and Sexual Minorities issues to include in Manifesto for upcoming Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018.
“Ondede, is a working class Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming and Sexual Minorities human rights organization working in Karnataka and different parts of the country to address the severe issues of transgender rights, sexuality rights, sexual violence and domestic violence.
This letter is to request _________________________________________________________________ to include the demands of socially excluded transgender and sexual minority community for upcoming 2018 Karnataka Assembly Elections.
Note: In all the above mentioned demands our community member’s participation shall be in majority!”
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 is tabled in the Lok Sabha by the Government of India and the Bill is being pushed by the BJP Government in the winter session. Currently the Bill is being opposed with contempt from members across the Transgender community in India and rightly so.
The Supreme Court’s 2014 verdict has beautifully articulated the term “gender identity” and the definition of transgender. But the reality with the unhinging patriarchy and gender-based discrimination tell a completely different story.
For starters, the current Bill completely eliminates the option of self-identification and it wrongly reinforces the stereotypes of transgender persons being partly male and partly female. The Bill provides for a mechanism for a transgender person to apply for a certificate of identity. The Bill also proposes for a screening committee to determine the genuinity of an individual’s identity and it undermines the spirit of the NALSA Judgment.
Secondly the Bill falls short on defining the term “discrimination” as it vaguely forbids discrimination in public places, educational institutions, health care centres etc, but there is a lack of law enforcing provisions in the Bill especially on sexual harassment against the community members.
Thirdly, the Bill criminalizes the act of begging while completely neglecting the fact that it is one of the few options of generating income for the transgender persons.
Fourthly, the NALSA judgement provided for reservations under backward classes, while the entire provision has disappeared in the current Bill.
Fifthly, the Bill does not mention anything on Property Rights, marriage, divorce, adoption etc as it is clearly affirmed in the NALSA judgement.
And the reasons for the contempt go on as this Bill is clearly drafted without trying to find out the needs of the community members and rejecting the recommendations made by the Standing Committee. As an Organization and a movement we firmly stand against this proposed Bill to be passed as Law in the coming winter session.
Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is also known as gender reassignment surgery (GRS), genital reassignment surgery, gender confirming surgery. Simply put, it involves a sex change operation. SRS is a surgical procedure that entails removing the genitalia of one sex and constructing the genitals of the opposite sex.
In the 2014, a planning meeting was held at Bangalore Medical College with support of NIMHANS, Bangalore Medical College, Victoria Hospital, M. S. Ramaiah Hospital, and Ondede along with the community members took part in the meeting.
After three years of constant efforts, on September 12th, 2017 with the joint efforts of NIMHANS, Ondede and Swatantra, a national meeting called “Socio-Medical Status of Transgender Persons in India” was organized at Govindaswamy Building, NIMHANS.
At this meeting, we had representatives from the States of Manipur, West Bengal, Delhi, Mumbai, Telangana, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Kerala shared the developments on availability of SRS for Transgender persons in their States. The main objective of the meeting is to bring focus of the State and private institutions on the lack of access to SRS for transgender persons in order to ensure the implementation of guidelines or policies in the context of NALSA Judgment and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
From the medical fraternity, we had doctors from Victoria Hospital, M.S. Ramaiah Hospital and NIMHANS.
After all the State representatives and the medical experts shared their experiences and opinions on health-care, the problems faced by them and their solutions for it, resolutions were unanimously passed. The entire meeting is documented in a form of a Report which will be published soon. This meeting was necessary to know the how it works in other States of India and their position as it will help us to form a committee for SRS and hence form better guidelines/ protocols/ policies for the State of Karnataka.
St. Joseph’s College along with the Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity hosted a Symposium on Democracy and the Current Situation in India. Ondede in partnership with Janadhare organized a panel on “The Age of Consent” as part of this symposium.
The objective of the panel was to raise awareness about the convergence of the rights of women, children and sexual minorities on the issue of the age of consent. The panel was composed of student speakers as well as eminent personalities such as Ms. Kavita Ratha, Ms. Anita Cheria and Mr. Vasudhendra Shroff, with each panelist bringing their own unique experience and perspective to the discussion. The panel was moderated by Dr. Akkai Padmashali, co-founder of Ondede.
The student panelists deliberated on the definition of consent and came to the conclusion that just saying yes is not enough. What is necessary is an informed consent – an informed yes, whereby all factors influencing a decision are considered, the decision is made with enough knowledge of the consequences of taking the decision, and the decision is taken from a wide range of available options.
Ms. Kavita Ratha spoke specifically about the restriction of age as a standard of measure. She challenged the accuracy of the use of age, in legal language as a measure of the ability of a person. Ms. Anita Cheriya further vexed this question by asking “if there is no age for dissent, how can one decide an age for consent?” Mr.Shroff wove the arguments together and said that the age of consent should take into account an individual’s physical and mental ability to give consent.
The panel ended with the conclusion that responses to issues around the age of consent have to be tailored according to the children or adults involved and that the law must be applied with wisdom.
The Transgender Person’s Bill was presented to the Lok Sabha earlier this year in hopes for better protection of the rights and welfare of the community. The bill addresses the specific issues of identification, discrimination, and inclusion of the transgender community in the larger society. Members of Ondede, along with allies from various different sections within the transgender community, gathered for a conference held on the 3rd of November to draft a set of suggested amendments to the bill. The key amendments suggested are as follows:
First, it asked for the term “transgender” to be redefined such that it does not flatten the transgender identity as one that is solely determined by biology, but rather reflects the multiplicity of socio-cultural identities within the community. Furthermore, it is suggested that a distinction be drawn between transmen and transwoman in determining legislation to ensure that the unique needs of each group are catered to; specifically, those of the transwoman given the additional societal pressures foisted on female persons.
Second, the report asks for family abuse to be made legible as a critical source of discrimination and harassment for transgendered individuals and asks for the concerned authorities to provide increased protection from the same. In a similar vein, the bill also asks for the criminalization of the sexual harassment and assault of transgendered persons (specifically assault excused by religion) to further protect individuals within the community.
Third, it is suggested that the instead of a District Screening Committee, a District Screening Commission be formed to lessen the complications involved in requiring a bureaucratic organization to sanction ones’ identity. In addition, it was asked that a time frame for issuing official certification be enacted as a binding standard to make the service readily accessible. On the National Level, the report suggests that a National Commission for Transgender Persons be formed as delineated in the Rights for Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, to ensure accountability within society.
This Bill is a crucial legislative tool for the transgender community and we sincerely hope that constructive discourse with the Standing Committee will lead to better legislation for the community in the near future.
For the very first time Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike ( Bangalore City Municipal Corporation) has allocated two crore rupees from the budget for 2016-2017 for the welfare of Transgender community – a big step for the transgender movement. The implementation and planning meeting for the use and allocation these funds took place on the 12th of July. The Mayor of Bangalore city,Chairpersons of finance and social welfare and various other government officials met with representatives from major sexual minority organization in Bangalore, including Ondede, KSMF, SAMARA, PAYANA and JEEVA organisations. The meeting ran smoothly and efficiently, and paved the path for what we hope will be a bright future for the welfare of the transgender community.