Beyond the glib talk and chest beating, the real indicator of the maturity of any society is how it treats its marginalised communities. One of the most abused and ignored sections of our section, the transgenders, is now rightfully getting the attention of policymakers. It has been more than seven years since the Supreme Court passed a landmark verdict upholding the rights of the transgenders that said they were entitled to all the fundamental rights enshrined in the country’s constitution.
About seven years since that historic verdict that nudged an apathetic society to turn to the plight of the shunned and abused community, the Union ministry for social justice and empowerment has drafted a note to grant transgenders the status of Other Backward Castes. Once it is adopted by the cabinet and is pushed through the legislative process, transgenders would be entitled to claim the benefits of 27% reservation of seats in educational institutions and jobs in government departments and enterprises. Adding one community to a list of about two dozen would be a small step but might translate into a quantum for the beneficiaries.
It is expected that the process would be completed without any opposition from any quarter. There hasn’t been any in the past one year during which the ministry officials held consultations with various departments. Though the OBC benefits are politically sensitive, it seems unlikely that political forces would oppose the move.
It is quite unimaginable that a community would be kept outside the boundaries of society simply because they have a gender preference or orientation that does not conform to the choice of the majority. It is estimated there are about two million transgenders in the country, a big section of whom are forced to live in the fringes of ostracisation resorting to prostitution, mendicancy, singing and dancing to earn their bread.
In this century, there has been a rapid transformation in the way we view the community. An increasing section of the urban middle-class have started embracing transgenders and our literature, films and music are celebrating it. It is high time the country absorbs them into the mainstream extending statutory benefits.