They beg at traffic signals or take to sex work in the absence of education or job opportunities. Ostracised by society and ignored by the government, transgenders in Mumbai have now found unlikely supporters in college students.
A campaign ‘De Taali’, organised by mass media students of Wilson College, seeks to create awareness about transgenders and their causes. “Our end goal is to include them in the education and employment process. But unless the social stigma surrounding eunuchs is not minimised, there is little hope for improving their life,” says Bhavya Pandit, one of the six students who have come up with the initiative to sensitise Mumbaikars to the cause of the third gender.
The campaign is part of the students’ curriculum.
The group has tied up with activists and NGOs working with transgenders.
And in the coming days, look out for a rock show, De Taali Gig, at the Carter Road amphitheatre in Bandra, where bands like Agnee and Mumbai Stamp will perform. Also on the agenda are seminars and workshops across city colleges, where documentaries will be screened and discussions will be held on the subject.
The organisers point out that the transgender community has to fight a daily battle for livelihood and sustenance. “They are subject to humiliation, violence and injustice. We are hoping that our efforts will promote sensitivity towards their issues and help in bringing about a change in their lives,” Pandit adds.
Another group of students has kick-started a similar initiative for people of alternate sexuality. ‘Living Outside the Closet’ is aimed at sensitising society to the issues of the homosexual community while providing a support network for their families. “Most gays we know already have a strong support system in place, thanks to their friends and other like-minded people. But, it is their parents and families who are unable to cope with the social stigma,” says Alisha Sequeira, one of the organiser.
The group has roped in gay rights activist Harrish Iyer and filmmakers Onir, Sridhar Rangayan and Chitra Palekar for the campaign. There will also be street plays near railway stations across the city. “We believe that it is high time heterosexuals took up the cause of the homosexuals. This way, people will listen,” adds Sequeira.
Activists working with the group say they are overwhelmed by the students’ enthusiasm. “The youth are taking us towards a more proactive and pluralistic society,” feels Iyer.