The day is here, one day in a year when women are in focus— International Women’s day. Check your phones and count the number of brands urging you to wear the latest in couture; eat the best; take free rides in a luxury car. Let’s not kid ourselves, sisters! We, women, are the best target group for all brands today. But then it is International women’s day and a day to recall women’s struggle for equality, a day to celebrate their achievements.
In the 47 years since the United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day, Indian women have undoubtedly made great strides although the urban-rural divide tells different stories. It is indeed fantastic when a young woman from a tier 3 city breaks the proverbial glass ceiling and moves to work and live in a metropolis. But there are her sisters who are still thought of as the sole flag bearers of family honor and suffer at the hands of the men in their family. Unless that changes, this sisterhood is skewed.
India Ahead celebrates all the transwomen out on International Women’s Day. These fabulous women have stories of grit, suffering, much like many of us but it is their spirit one is celebrating today.
Let us first understand the term Trans woman
It refers to someone who self-identifies as a woman but is not assigned as a female at birth. And a cis woman is someone who is assigned as a female at birth and continues to identify as one. Which is what I am and therefore everybody and their fathers are all out to make me happy today. But no celebration is ever complete unless all are included in the party.
It is absurd and unfair when transwomen are kept out from what is defined as the category of ‘women’ in general, and that is what makes their struggle tough and invalidates the entire premise of being recognized as women.
Even as lakhs of women face discrimination and are marginalized, it is that much tougher for transwomen as they have to constantly reiterate that hey, we are women too and not some exotic creatures who are objects of ridicule. For starters, transwomen are not the ‘third gender’, and who on earth says that men are first and women second? Our trans sisters are like all cis women. Therefore, let the govt grant them that one basic thing and that is to write ‘female’ alongside their gender in all their IDs. What most of us don’t understand and it’s time we did is that transwomen are not invading anyone’s gender space, in fact, they are part of the space and are fighting their own battles- physical dysphoria, patriarchy, and misogyny.
We often hear women demanding gender equality but, there are just too many women out there whose claim to womanhood is conveniently ignored by society. Sexual harassment, domestic violations, denial of education rights, and many such miserable deeds have been associated with the life of a woman.
In the case of Transgenders, the situation gets grimmer, they not only face gender dysphoria but go through vast discrimination and transphobia. At many times, these women are treated viciously and beaten, and even abused.
Factor this! The average life expectancy of women in India is 73.8 years whereas, the average life expectancy of a trans-woman is only 35 years.
For the longest time, the Indian Census did not recognize Transgenders, both trans men and trans women. But that finally changed in 2011 when data was collected for transgenders detailing their employment, Literacy levels, and Caste.
According to the 2011 Census, there were around 4.88 Lakh transgenders.
Although Transwomen in India were granted legal status in 2014, many continue to face discrimination and struggle to find gainful employment. It is a misnomer that most want to stick their what I would call “stereotypical professions”, transwomen should have the right to choose their profession based on merit like the rest of women. There are fabulous stories of some running canteens in Tamil Nadu; training to be policewomen; taking up modeling and acting as careers.
Over the years, India has indeed made significant progress and it started in the year 2014 to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. In July 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs sought inputs from the Central Armed Police Forces on recruiting Transgenders as officers.
In 2021, Karnataka became the first state in the country to provide one percent reservation for the ‘transgender’ community in all government services.
The notice from Karnataka High Court specified that whenever a notification is published inviting applications for government jobs, the ‘others’ column must be added along with male and female columns. The notification also underlines that there should not be any discrimination against transgenders in the process of selection.
On February 14, the Rajasthan High Court asked the state government to provide for reservation to transgenders in state employment in accordance with the Supreme Court verdict on the issue within four months.
On March 3, the Madras High Court flayed the state government for failing to provide adequate reservation to transgender candidates in employment opportunities.
So those are reasons enough to celebrate our transwomen sisters this International Women’s Day— and also each day hereafter.