October 2015

Pride March 2015 Deccan Herald Article: Series of events planned ahead of Queer Habba – Deccan …

Series of events planned ahead of Queer Habba
Bengaluru: Oct 26, 2015, dhns
Ahead of Bengaluru Pride and Karnataka Queer Habba, the annual event organised by a Coalition for Sex Workers and Sexual Minorities Rights (CSMR), a series of programmes highlighting gay rights, including queer poetry, diversity fair, queer street play, poster making and rainbow run among others, has been kickstarted.

More than 2,000 members of LGBT community from various parts of the country are expected to take part in the Pride March scheduled for Nov 22.

On Saturday, a discussion was held to highlight the importance and history of queer pride, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code ( IPC), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender ( LGBT) rights and related issues.

The objective of Queer Habba, this time, would be to create awareness among participants and citizens about transphobia, homophobia and the discrimination against sexual minority, according to activist and founder-member of Ondede, Akkai Padmashali.

Padmashali said: “The route for the Pride March is yet to be finalised. This time, there will be sports competition for LGBT community on October 31 at Malleswaram grounds.”

She added, that the CSMR will also urge the government for effective enforcement of National Legal Services Authority of India ( NALSA) judgment.

The CSMR, which is a coalition of many LGBTQ and allied groups and individuals, is based in Bengaluru and has more than 50 organisations under it. This will be the eighth edition of the Karnataka Queer Habba. More details are available on


Sexworkers committee officially took charge on 16th October 2015

Jayamala takes over as chief of panel on sex workers, Devadasis

October 17,2015, Bengaluru, DHNS


 Actor-turned-politician Jayamala, a Congress MLC, on Friday officially assumed office as chairperson of a committee to study the problems of sex workers, Devadasis and sexual minorities in the State.

The post ensures her the status of a minister-of-state rank and thus many facilities.
The committee is under the purview of the Women and Child Development department. Jayamala was appointed in May. She has been allotted a room in the Vikasa Soudha.

The first meeting of the committee under the chairmanship of Kannada and Culture Minister Umashree was held on Friday. The committee has the task of submitting its report within next six months. Usually such panels get an extension, as the given assignments are rarely completed within the timeframe. The committee will tour within and outside the State and also conduct a survey of these communities.

Umashree told the media in Bengaluru that the 15-member committee will look into bringing the marginalised sections to the mainstream. This will be the first such committee in the country, she added.

She said the aspect of legalising prostitution was constantly being debated, while little efforts were made to address the social stigma these women suffered, in addition to lack of education and health care.

“This is a highly sensitive subject, which has always stayed in the background. With the formation of the committee, these issues are now gaining visibility,” she said.

Umashree said the problems faced by these women had to be addressed scientifically and not by adopting emotional approach. The government would make concerted efforts for the welfare of these women, she added.


Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media on Transgender Rights

Third gender still face discrimination in Karnataka


Vidhan Soudha, Bengaluru.

Karnataka government does not recognize transgender people as a third gender with rights equal to any other citizen of India, a recently released report found.

A report released in August 2015 by Ondede, an organization which works for transgender and sexual minorities’ right, has identified illegal police action against transgender persons in November 2014 in Karnataka. The action by police included illegal detention, malicious action and harassment.

“The action taken by the police in November 2014 was under the Karnataka Prevention of Beggary Act,” said Gowthaman Ranganathan of Alternative Law Forum (ALF). Gowthaman had compiled the report with Prerana Kodur.

One of the recommendations of the report was to repeal section 36A of the Karnataka Police Act 1963. This law was passed by the Karnataka assembly in the year2011.

The Karnataka Police Act 1963 (section 36A) allows the commissioner to issue orders to prevent, control of suppress “undesirable activities of eunuchs” residing within his jurisdiction. It also allows maintenance of a register of “eunuchs” who are suspected of kidnapping or emasculating boys or of committing or abetting unnatural offences.

“This section criminalizes transgenders. If the law is on the statutory book, it has to be repealed. This is an unwanted law,” said AkkaiPadmashil, who is a transgender and a founder of Ondede.

“The section has not been activated by a notification in a gazette by a commissioner,” said Gowthaman Ranganathan.

“It is in contravention of the National Legal Services Authority judgment and the provisions of our constitution. A challenge has been made to the Karnataka High Court and the same is pending,” said Gowthaman Ranganathan.

In 2012, the supreme court of India in the case of NALSA held that transgender persons be recognized as a third gender. The court also held that transgender persons will be entitled to the same fundamental rights as any other citizen. The Supreme Court interpreted that the constitution right to not face discrimination based on sex includes gender.

“We are placing the report in front of the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority. We can see it as a tool and how we can educate the larger society. It has more to do with the social stigma that is associated with our community,” said Akkai Padmashil.

The United Nations Human rights declaration of 2011 reaffirmed that there should be no discrimination based on sex. India is a signatory to this resolution.

“Any kind of discrimination is illegal. It is disrespectful to the Constitution. It is disrespectful to the Supreme Court judgment,” said Akkai Padmashil.

Transgenders face Employment Crisis

They are willing, but the city isn’t
Rakshitha, a volunteer with an NGO has been looking out for a full-time for over two years

40,000+ transgender community in the state are waiting for an opportunity to work, without fear of being chastised, in the mainstream. Some have ventured in from the fringes. How has the city treated those who made the journey?

Twenty-five-year-old Rakshitha has attended 32 job interviews in the last two-and-a-half years. She usually leaves the interview room with “We’ll get back to you”, “We have to consult higher authorities” and such ringing in her ears. But she doesn’t get her hopes up, already knowing the outcome. None of these MNCs, international hotels or NGOs where she has interviewed will get back to her. It’s not her educational qualification or experience that’s the issue. It’s the fact that Rakshitha is a transgender.
Rakshitha, who has completed her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Economics and Political Science has given interviews for several posts — receptionist, personal assistant, data entry — over the years. Even as there is much talk about an inclusive work environment for the third gender, the 40,000+ group in Karnataka is not only grappling with a lack of opportunities but also the insensitive attitude of employers. According to Akkai Padmashali, founder member Ondede, an organisation working for children, women and sexual minorities for dignity-voice-sexuality, the root cause of the issue is a phobia towards sexual minorities.
Rakshitha agrees. In 2011, after much struggle, she got a job at a KSRTC booking counter in Basaveshwaranagar through a referral. But the job didn’t last long thanks to “customers who complained that they weren’t comfortable interacting with me” and advised the owner that their business was suffering because he had a transgender on board. “How are we supposed to lead our lives? We also have to pay bills. The rent for my room itself is Rs 5,000. If I don’t pay it on time, I will be asked to vacate it. At the KSRTC ticketing job, I was told I was causing trouble to customers. Instead, I should have been the one feeling bad—with their hurtful comments and sniggering. People were always complaining to the owner that they were uncomfortable with me. But I just chose to ignore them,” she says.

Lack of jobs
The transgender community’s biggest issue is that the jobs simply don’t exist. This, even though they are ready to grab any opportunity that comes their way. Often, being ostracised can have near-tragic consequences. Like in the case of Viji (35), who hasn’t been trained in a particular skill set. After her family shunned her and her stint in a small-time phenyl delivery business 20 years ago didn’t work, Viji attempted suicide not once, but thrice. Today, she is not doing anything. “When we go for our collection, shopkeepers say we should work. When we turn around and ask them for a job, there’s silence. There are so many things that make our lives painful and unemployment adds to it,” she says.
Rakshitha, who has a part-time job as a volunteer at Ondede, admits that she is staying on only because she hasn’t been given the opportunity to work in the mainstream. “Most interviewers call us for job interviews out of sympathy,” she says. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also ask appalling questions— “why and how did you become like this,” Rakshitha says.
At the interviews she has attended, she has even requested if she can work from home, which would “ease the discomfort” others feel in having a transgender as a colleague. “We are requesting opportunities,” she says, recalling an instance when she was turned down at an English tutorial class in Basaveshwaranagar, where she had wanted to take up classes.
Even as it means skipping breakfast and lunch on most days, she refuses to resort to sex work or begging. “I’m depending on others in the community to help me pay for my room in Yeshwantpur. People just throw money at our faces. It’s so shameful,” she says. As she literally begs for opportunities, Rakshitha has realised over the years that she is in the midst of a hypocritical society. “People are turncoats. They say something and do another,” she says.

Struggle to survive
The landmark decision to appoint a transgender, Anu C in the High Court of Karnataka in 2012, Padmashali says, has “slightly” changed the attitude towards the community. But she points to another problem, which has been on the rise—a discrimination within the community itself. “While those who speak English have better chances, the non-English speaking are fighting two battles. How are we going to fight that now?” she wonders.
Which is why, Sunita (name changed on request) has taken up a journalism course in a city college. That is a landmark choice in itself. “We’re labelled thieves or sex workers, which is why we are barred from the mainstream. But we also have the desire to lead a regular life—study, work and settle down with a family. Instead we’re considered unworthy, incapable of doing anything,” she says.
Worse still, she feels that they are not even given an opportunity. “Now once I finish my course, I have to be prepared with a Plan B in case I don’t get a job in the mainstream. In that case, I have to look at options such as starting a newsletter or doing something on my own,” says the 27-year-old.
But at least this would be better than the sex work that she had to resort to, to sustain herself a couple of years ago. “There was a time when I’ve offered myself for Rs 10 just so that I could drink a cup of tea. On good days I’d make Rs 300 while at other times it would be Rs 30. But there were times that I needed the money, and no one would give me a job. How are we supposed to fill our stomachs?” she asks.
On their own
Some like Priya (34), who now runs a one-room salon on Tumkur Road choose to work on their own. After struggling with a job in the garment sector for 11 years, where people used to laugh at her, she decided to put her beauty skills, which she had picked up during a three-month course, to use. “I always had to sit with the elderly at the garment factory who were more understanding, because the younger lot would make fun of me,” she says. But when Priya decided to open a beauty parlour four years ago, things were not easy, whether it was finding a place to live or equipping her salon.The toughest part was convincing customers to make use of beauty services—threading, waxing, pedicure, haircut, mehendi application, bleach etc. “Even now, there are times when clients walk in and then say they’d rather go somewhere else as soon as they see me. It does hurt, but I’ve let it pass,” she says.
Priya, who makes anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 in a month, reconciles that being avoided by customers is a small price she has to pay in comparison with begging in public or being tortured by the police and the public. “Now, I go for stitching lessons thrice a week during the lunch break. That way I can add to the income,” she says.

Bleak outlook
Similarly, it’s been a long battle for Sunita, who ran away from home after not being accepted by her family. Teasing, cruel remarks, and isolation by lecturers and classmates led her to quit her BBM course at United Mission College, after which she started living with the community in 2008.
In 2012, she finally got a job as a programme associate with a tourism company. Her family, after seeing a report in the media, reconnected with her. “Someone had told them that I was involved in sex work. They were disgusted and had distanced themselves from me,” she says. By then, through a saving of Rs 50,000 collected from work over time (and another Rs 50,000 that she borrowed), Sunita had undergone a Sex Reassignment Surgery and had had breast implants. “The first time my mother saw me, she refused to believe that it was me. She started crying and it took time for her to believe that I was now a woman,” she says.
In Christmas 2013, Sunita’s mother called her home. But, she was asked to come in a burqa, out of fear of what the neighbours might say. “I was introduced as a friend. And every time I visited, I was expected to wear a burqa,” she says. It was only a year later that her mother stopped worrying about what people might say. “Every step in our life is a struggle. When we go to the police station, cases are not registered, when it comes to employment we’re not counted.No one bothers about us,” Sunita says. She’s enrolled herself at an evening college, and holds a job between 9 am and 4 pm. “Not just the money, I know the difficulty in getting a job. I’ve been rejected so many times,” she says. Padmashali feels that several from the transgender community could benefit from vacancies in the government sector which remain unfilled. “There’s a lot of talk, but that doesn’t translate into action,” she rues. Equality and diversity mean little to this group, who has experienced workplace discrimination.

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