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BM REPORT OF 2012 WINS MAJOR BATTLE FOR TRANSGENDERS

http://36aBy Niranjan Kaggere, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jan 13, 2016, 04.00 AM IST

BM report of 2012 wins major battle for transgenders
HC gives state government six months to erase reference to ‘eunuchs’ in the draconian Police Act
Allowing thousands of transgenders to live with dignity in society, the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday ordered omission of the category of ‘eunuchs’ from the Karnataka Police Act, 1963. Hearing the writ petition filed by the Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum and others, the HC directed the state government to amend the Act within six months.
The High Court’s decision has come as a big relief to the transgender community which has been battling the state government for over four years. “It is a day of victory,” said Akkai Padmashali, founder of Ondede, a forum of transgenders, soon after the hearing.
HC advocate Jayna Kothari, who pleaded on behalf of the applicants, said, “We had challenged Section 36 (A) of the Police Act. The court has granted six months to the government to amend the law.” In June 2012 the Karnataka Legislature passed a controversial Bill amending the Karnataka Police Act and allowing the police to regulate activities of and maintain a black book on transgenders.
Bangalore Mirror was the first to report provisions of the article as soon as it was cleared by then governor HR Bhardwaj and published in the State’s official gazette. BM’s article ‘Guv nod for cops to maintain black book on transgenders’ published on July 15, 2012 came as rude jolt to the community. The Act was amended based on the recommendations of a one-man committee headed by former Law Secretary KR Chamayya. The Act allowed cops to maintain a separate register containing the names and addresses of transgenders who are “reasonably suspected of kidnapping or emasculating boys or of committing unnatural offences”. The Act also empowered police to prohibit registered ‘eunuchs’ from carrying out any activities stated in the order.
“The BM article was an eye-opener as it explained the provisions of the Act in detail and how it would become difficult for transgenders to live in Karnataka. Many of the provisions were derived from the repealed the archaic Hyderabad Eunuchs Act. Following the report, the community united to fight it out. Tuesday’s verdict is the first success and we will not rest till the government repeals the entire section 36 (A),” said Akkai.
Recounting their long battle, Akkai said, “After the report in July, the community had a huge rally at Town Hall in August and appealed to people in power and in the judiciary to bail out the community from the clutches of the stringent law. Subsequently, several sessions were held with the Legal Services Authority of the State and Centre on the issue of ‘Transgender and Law’. Despite making promises, no one really helped.”
The community appealed to then minister Shobha Karandlaje with a copy of the BM article. “In fact, it was she who convinced the government about our plight. But, by then, the government was completing its tenure,” Akkai said. They then approached Sonia Gandhi, who was the UPA chairperson and urged her to bring in suitable legislation honouring the rights of sexual minorities.
Finally, the Supreme Court order recognising transgenders as the third gender was a force multiplier and the community filed a writ before the Karnataka High Court seeking repeal of various sections of the Karnataka Police Act.
“Even as the matter was pending before the court, the Congress-led state government showed positive signs. It began recognising transgenders who excelled in various fields. It was only when I was conferred Rajyotsava Award – the highest civilian award in the State – that R Uma of Jeeva and I filed yet another petition, along with the BM article and other reports as annexures, before the HC, seeking justice,” Akkai explained.
The petitioners recently met Law and Parliamentary affairs minister TB Jayachandra and explained their plight. They also plan to meet Home Minister Dr G Parameshwara next week to seek repeal of the entire section 36 A of the Police Act, Akkai said.
‘I was taunted for writing on eunuchs’
The day is clearly etched in my memory. There was pandemonium in the legislative assembly over the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act (1964). All the media focus was on the emotive anti-cow bill so much so that another controversial bill amending the Karnataka Police Act whereby the police could regulate activities of transgenders got ignored.
Sitting in the press room of Vidhana Soudha in a rainy afternoon of June 2012 it was just another day in the secretariat awaiting the beginning of ‘daily rounds’. Like other reporters, I began browsing through the pile of newspapers. It was then that a bundle of government gazette dated June 16, 2012 in the corner of the room caught my attention.
I picked up a copy of the gazette from the bundle and began going through the various notifications. One sheet titled ‘Karnataka Repealing and Amending (Regional Laws) Act 2009, approved by the governor caught my attention. A reference “Power to regulate transgenders” evoked further interest in me. As I read more, it made me recoil in disgust; it portrayed transgenders as “child kidnappers with an intention of emasculating them or forcing them to commit any unnatural offences”. The amendment also allowed police to maintain a separate register with names of such transgenders.
As I went about speaking to the already-marginalised community members, I began to understand that the act would only make their life tougher especially in a city like Bengaluru.
After the report was published on page 1 (in the then tabloid avatar) of July 15, 2012, I was subjected to odd comments when I went back to my beat. Many people teased me if Bangalore Mirror had no “better” subject than to focus on transgenders in detail and publish it on the front page! Almost a week since publication, the transgender community took note of the story and sought a copy of the Gazette which I handed over to them. Subsequently they launched their battle against the amendment.
It is any reporter’s delight when a story leads to the fruition like in this case where reference to ‘eunuchs’ has been asked by High Court to be erased from the Act. It is still Page 1 lead and I am awaiting another round of taunts today.
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