LGBT Rights in Kerala and Tamil Nadu

In our blog titled The past and present of India’s transgender community, we talked about the various reforms that are being done in the Indian society for the betterment of the LGBT community. While most of India is really lagging behind in that aspect, two south Indian states have really taken it upon their shoulders to do something about it.

Tamil Nadu and Kerala are torchbearers when it comes to LGBT rights, especially the third gender.

KERALA

After Supreme Court affirmed the position of the third gender community in Indian society back in 2014, Kerala was the first state to introduce a state-wide policy and implement real changes. The policy promotes inclusivity and protection for the transgender people, as well as access to education, healthcare, legal help and social security. State laws against discrimination of transgender community have been put in place as well.

13987652_1167001416692549_1664595293552625766_oSource: theladiesfinger.com

Several factors have come together to make Kerala a comparatively safer space for transgender and the LGBT community on the whole.

After Supreme Court recognized the Third Gender as a part of Indian community, Kerala, along with Tamil Nadu was the first, and so far one of the very few states to have introduced a transgender policy at State Level. The policy included the right for trans-people to express themselves as male, female or third gender. It had provisions for equal social, economic, political, educational and employment-based access and right to protection against discrimination and violence just like every other citizen.

a) In 2016, Kerala introduced free of cost Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in government hospitals and allocated a budget for that.

b) In Coonoor, a portion of state budget was invested towards employment generation and skill training programs for the transgender people.

c) Shashi Tharoor, a staunch LGBT vocalist, was the MP of Thiruvananthapuram when he submitted a private member’s bill twice to scratch off homosexuality as a crime from Section 377. It was not accepted.

d) In 2017, Kochi Metro hired 23 transgender people as full time employees.

transgendertwo_062317023935Source: indiatoday.in

e) In 2016, Kochi opened a school for transgender people to pass their 10th and 12th standards.

f) The school stopped functioning due to lack of staff and students but it was later turned into a hostel for the transgender staff for Kochi metro.

g) In 2017, Kozhikode hosted a workshop attended by the Social Justice Department and around 30 representatives of the Malayalam Trans-community. Together they discussed several possibilities to make the society even better for them – having ID cards, more skill development programs, pension plans, and scholarships and driving lessons to be employed as Uber drivers or the to-be-launched G-taxi.

h) A Government-run medical college in Kottayam will have a clinic specifically for the trans-community. It will open doors to sex workers as well.

i) Queerala, a moniker arrived at from queer and Kerala is one of the most active LGBT platforms of the country and provides endless support towards the community in terms of literature, art, culture, academics, legality and so on.

TAMIL NADU

Along with Kerala, Tamil Nadu is the front-runner of LGBT rights in India. Even before the Third Gender category was recognised, there were efforts made by the state to do something for the community. Because of the legitimacy of Section 377 up until now, the states could not do much for the L, G and B categories and their sub-categories. But a lot of efforts were put into securing rights for T’s under the umbrella.

93Source: gaylaxymag.com

a) Tamil Nadu has a transgender welfare board since 2008, long before any other state even began considering it. The board took care of free housing program, sources of livelihood, opportunities and scholarships for higher studies, formation of self-help groups and so on.

b) State Government conducted a proper census and issued ration cards for the transgender people.

c) In May, 2008, third gender admission was introduced in the government-run colleges of TN.

d) The bill to provide reservation quota for transgender people like SC/ST and OBC people was passed in 2015, giving the community fixed slots in schools, colleges and jobs.

e) In 2017, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University started free tuition to transgender students.

f) Back in 2011, Gopi Shankar, one of India’s leading LGBT voices and also a genderqueer individual, launched India’s first helpline for LGBTQ+ people under the banner of his group Srishti Maduai.

g) K. Prithika Yashini became the first transgender woman in India to become a police office. She was appointed as a sub-inspector of TN police.

h) In May, 2017, Chennai, the capital of TN, hosted the LGBT Workplace Symposium to bring together corporate employers, employees, activists and LGBT representatives to discuss the challenges faced by the community in Indian workspace and what the authorities can do to fight the problems.

Cultural aspects

When it comes to popular culture – television, movies, fashion et cetera, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are ahead of other states as well. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have also seen multiple quite a few transgender marriages too.

In Kerala, clothing brand Red Lotus hired two transgender persons, Maya Menon and Gowri Savithri to model for the ‘Mazhavil’ sari collection photo shoot. Mazhavil in Hindi mean rainbow, and this was solely dedicated to the LGBT and especially transgender community.

Red-Lotus-Transgender-Fashion-Sharmila-Nair-1Source: Red Lotus

A. Revathi is a multi-talented LGBT personality from Tamil Nadu, and the first member of the hijra community to not only have a book under her name, but have it translated in more than 8 different languages and have the book included in academics syllabus. Her autobiography, ‘The Truth about me: A Hijra Life story’ is part of the third gender literature in American College of Madurai. She has also starred in the Tamil movie Thenavattu which had two more trans-people in lead cast.

revathi-350_022312011923          Source: Susan’s Place

Anjali Ameer from Kerala went on to become the first transsexual woman to be cast as the lead role in a mainstream movie in India, that too against superstar Mamootty. Tamil Nadu had the first transgender TV anchor and talk show host as well, by the name of Padmini Prakash and Rose. There are some other transgender people who work in the showbiz world as well.

Anjali-Ameer-Images-7-1Anjali Ameer

In Koovagam village, trans-feminine persons have their annual meet that takes place for fifteen days.

ayush ranka_1465281591Source: indiatimes.com

What else can be done?

While Kerala and Tamil Nadu have done quite a lot towards the betterment of the transgender society, almost all of it has been focussed on trans-feminine people (male to female). Trans-masculine persons (female to male) have not had their chance to the equal rights or equal representation. But they do exist and should have the same opportunities as well.

Moreover, with the homosexual acts not being a crime anymore thanks to the decision of Supreme Court, there needs to be new laws in place to cater to the homosexual, bisexual and other sexualities on the rainbow spectrum as well.

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