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Monday, August 30, 2004

Bollywood film tackles Aids taboo

By Zubair Ahmed
BBC correspondent in Mumbai

The film has earned high praise from the United Nations, which is supporting the film, for choosing to focus on the issue of Aids.
Phir Milenge is the first mainstream Bollywood film dealing with the stigma of Aids and features some of the industry's biggest stars.

Transsexual stands proud in a land of conformity

SMH.COM Article

May 3 2003

Courageous . . . Aya Kamikawa fought the campaign of her life to win a place on the Setagaya local assembly.

Aya Kamikawa's election to public office is a further sign that Japanese society is slowly opening its mind, Shane Green reports from Tokyo.
In her fight for the rights of transsexuals in Japan, Aya Kamikawa organised petitions and knocked on plenty of politicians' doors. It was a frustrating experience for Ms Kamikawa - who was born a male - in a country where conformity and uniformity are often regarded as virtues.
Then came some advice from a member of the Diet, Japan's parliament: unless she was prepared to step forward publicly and declare her identity, her voice would remain weak.
Ms Kamikawa considered the advice, and took it one step further. This week she became the first transsexual in Japan elected to public office, when she won a place on the local assembly for Setagaya, one of Tokyo's biggest local government areas.

With her victory, the 35-year-old wrote a small piece of history, but with big implications.

"Japan is a society where you can easily live a 'typical' lifestyle," she said. "But Japanese don't respect our real choice, our real personalities. As long as you are ordinary, you are safe in this society."

Not only does her victory demonstrate her courage, it may also be an indication that old Japan is changing, and becoming more inclusive.

Ms Kamikawa has had many experiences of the old ways, following a decision in her late 20s to make the transition to becoming a woman.

Still listed as a male on her family identity records, she found the basics of life such as renting a flat suddenly became extremely difficult.

Then there was work. After university she had worked in full-time jobs as a male - including as a public relations officer. But, as a woman, difficulties arose because prospective employers needed family identity documents. In the end, she could only find part-time work, where such documents are not required.

There was also the day-to-day prejudice she encountered. People would ask her what stage she was at with her "construction" - a reference to operations to change her sexual organs.

But Ms Kamikawa found welcome support from her parents, who also backed her when she told them she was planning to run for public office.

"To become a woman, to be my real self, that's my basis for living. "I can't live in a society that doesn't admit that. That's why I decided to run in the election."

The first hurdle was the election commission, which had to deal with the fact that her formal identity remains male. In a display of progressiveness the authorities decided she could stand as a woman.

Then there were the voters. Few people, even her supportive parents, doubted she could win. Initially, she found what she described as a "cold attitude". But as the campaign progressed, there were increasing signs voters were warming to her.

Now a four-year term awaits.

It is a great leap forward for Japan's transsexuals, who Ms Kamikawa estimates number in their high hundreds, perhaps a thousand.

But her election also carries a wider message. "As long as we keep silent, nothing is going to change," she said. "We need the courage to make a society which respects diversity."


An old bit of news, I know. But I thought she was the first transsexual to become an MP, I was wrong. It was Georgina Beyer who was elected in 1999.

Lesbian Golfers By Lydia Sargent

Znet article

Yes, I'm angry about a lot of things, now that conservative women have told me I should be. But there's one thing that happened recently that's made me extremely angry, more angry than anything else.
It's not the presence in our society of lots of (mostly male) people trained by the military to bomb, strafe, maim, and kill; who kill innocent civilians and drive around with vanity license plates like "SIG HIL" (read Sieg Heil) and AK47. Rather, their existence makes me feel more secure and safe, inspite of recent events.
It's not the toxic chemicals spilling into our environment, in our neighborhoods, on our highways. Those who are bothered by this are PC ecologists concerned with the sex life of fish.
It's not the proposed Counter Terrorism Act of 1995 that would broaden FBI powers to investigate suspects through telephone wiretaps and easier access to documents such as financial records, telephone bills, and hotel registers. In fact, it doesn't go far enough. I think the FBI should be able to have TV cameras in all homes, workplaces, and offices of radical left groups. As long as they leave the SIG HIL people and the NRA folks alone to do their thing, the Act is okay with me. Pass it, the sooner the better.
It's not the fact that Disneyland, California is tearing down gender barriers, although this did tick me off a bit. "The whole park will be unisex," predicts attractions supervisor Bruce Kimbrell. Until recently, only men have been hired to play boat jockeys on the Jungle Ride, where guests pass water squirting elephants and stalking tigers. Gals have staffed Storybook Land, a children's fantasy ride where they point out miniature homes of Disney characters. Park officials are looking into hiring women to work in other male bastions--train locomotives and the steamboat.
This is shocking, but not what's got me really really angry.
It's not the news that women at the Strand night club in Boston are getting their own mosh pit. Moshing, in case you've missed this activity, is slam dancing, a hard core rite of angry white males. Fed up with watching guys bash one another to the beat of the music, the club's disc jockey now invites women to mosh exclusively by announcing, "I would like to create an all female zone -- Guys, stay out of the women's hair." Male moshers usually circle the gal mosh and cheer; this is all too liberated and has to go.
While this clearly threatens western civilization, it is not what has me so ticked off.
It's also not the news that at Lexington High School in Massachusetts the gals took top honors in their regional science fair, working on such projects as "Decaffeination using Cyclodextrin" and "The Effects of Growth Factors and Antioxidants on Glutamate Neurotoxicity." This is disgusting news, as is the news that a British woman has become the first women to climb Mt. Everest alone, without oxygen supplies. Or the civil rights law, Title IX, to help women collegiate athletes. This law is forcing the cutting of male wrestling, swimming, and gymnastic teams, say many, to make way for women's teams. It may even cut into some of the football and basketball team perks. Anything that cuts off male perks deserves a violent response or a new repressive law, in my view.
But these are perturbations compared to what's really pissing me off. What I'm angry about is that incredible social problem, that threat to free market capitalism and the family as prime consumer unit, that affront to society--lesbian professional golfers, and their boobs.


A very funny and pointed article. Read it in full here.

Are You Femme Enough? By Lydia Sargent

Znet article

Welcome to Hotel Satire where traditional values inhabit our tastefully decorated rooms, where the enterprise is free for those with the right background and breeding, where dad is in command, the kids are at his feet, mom is in the kitchen, lesbos are in jail, commies have all joined the Russian Mafia, and everyone is praying for Armageddon to come, and soon, so we can start over and get it right this time.
People, and you gals. Summer is coming. A time when all good gals contemplate what they will look like in shorts and bikinis, and ask that age old question (as depicted in the Vogue ad below): "Are you femme enough?" The answer is: No, you're not. Let's examine the following:.....

An intresting article aimed at natural women which makes me ask the taboo questions.....
Can some of us be trying to be TOO femme ? Is there such a thing as TOO femme ? and where should we draw the line, if any ?

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Merdeka, but not for transsexuals

The Malaysiakini
JJ Ray
Aug 24, 04 3:57pm

Malaysia will celebrate her 47th year of independence soon. While there is a great reason for all to rejoice, one particular group - the transsexuals - has valid reasons to feel otherwise.

Transsexuals in this country have no avenues to turn to for help or advice. They face instant discrimination, be it from the society or their family members for coming out as transsexuals or mak nyah (the term used locally).

Work is hard to come by for them because of their appearance and many people sadly treat mak nyah as freaks. It is a very sad but real situation in Malaysia.

To make matters worse, mak nyah who have undergone sex reassignment surgery (SRS) (which is not permissible in Malaysia for Muslim mak nyah after a fatwa was issued) cannot have their new sex listed on their identity card.

UN agency concerned about detention of AIDS activists in Nepal

16 August 2004 – The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today voiced concern about the recent detention and reported mistreatment of nearly 40 people in Nepal working for an organization that helps sexual minorities to deal with the disease.

UN Report

check out my earlier post on this.

UN highlights 10 stories the world should know more about

The United Nations turns our attention away from Iraq and politics by reminding us that there are other important issues that require media attention

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Georgina Beyer

The first transexual in the world to be elected to parliament. (Not sure about that, I thought Aya Kamikawa of japan was?)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The ghost of Enoch

Guardian Unlimited

Nick Cohen
Sunday August 22, 2004
The Observer

Just before the Leicester South by-election on 15 July a flier was slipped under the windscreen wipers of cars in the constituency. It showed a picture of Parmjit Singh Gill, the Liberal Democrat candidate, shaking the hand of one Stephanie Dearden. She looked odd, like a man: indeed, the flier told us, she once was a man.
It announced in bold capitals that Singh Gill had joined the Liberal Democrats for GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL and TRANSGENDER Action. Underneath it quoted Ms Dearden as saying: 'I was born in 1956, and as a child growing up, I knew I was different than everyone else. As I got older I realised I was a woman trapped inside the wrong body ... I underwent a full sex change operation in 2002.'

No one knows who put the leaflet out. It may have been a rival party. It may have been a freelance queer-basher who got his angry thrills by monitoring obscure trans-gender websites. But the message to working-class voters was that the Liberal Democrats were a bunch of weirdoes who hung out with lady-boys and shemales - an appeal to prejudice which echoes much of modern political propaganda.

The Curious Case of the Witch and the Clergyman

A BATTLE between a transgender witch and a Christian councillor unfolded in the Aussie discrimination courts this week.

Olivia Watts is taking on Casey mayor Rob Wilson under Victoria's new religious vilification laws, claiming he incited hatred against her pagan religion when he outed her as a witch in a 2003 press release.

Entitled "Satanic Cult Out To Take Over Casey", Cr Wilson's statement called on local church leaders to hold a "day of prayer" to ward off occult forces.

The press release came amid a competitive council election in which both Ms Watts and Cr Wilson were candidates. He became mayor; she launched legal action with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

Ms Watts told the Herald Sun that Cr Wilson's comments ruined her life.

"I've had my home wrecked and lost my naturopathy business.


VICTORIAN taxpayers will foot a $50,000 bill so that a transgender "witch" may sue a suburban mayor for outing her....Several top barristers were angered by the use of scarce Legal Aid funds, but Attorney-General Rob Hulls gave his OK to a similar case. "We govern for all Victorians - and that includes witches, magicians and sorcerers," Mr Hulls wrote to the Pagan Awareness Network, which is also suing the mayor of Casey, Rob Wilson. Ms Watts said she became "an emotional wreck" after Mr Wilson outed her as a witch in a press release and on community radio. She was taking Mr Wilson to the anti-discrimination list of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in August.


FRIDAY the 13th was a lucky day for triumphant witch Olivia Watts.Yesterday's inauspicious date saw the end of a year-long legal hassle between the transgender witch and City of Casey Mayor Rob Wilson.
The saga ended when Cr Wilson publicly apologised for comments made about the former police officer in a 2003 press release.
Cr Wilson formally apologised "for any hurt felt by Ms Watts as a consequence of his press release". Cr Wilson confirmed that no money changed hands as part of the settlement.
Ms Watts said later the apology was the best outcome she could wish for.

"It's absolutely wonderful," she said.
"I can start to live a normal life again."

Ms Watts launched her action for religious vilification against Cr Wilson after he sent a press release entitled Satanic Cult Out To Take Over Casey to Cranbourne newspapers.
Cr Wilson's 2003 press release said Ms Watts' declaration she was a witch was a matter of concern for all Casey residents and he warned of a satanic cult attempting to attack or take over the council.
In yesterday's statement Cr Wilson said Ms Watts had assured him she was not a satanist and he did not condone violence against anyone on religious grounds or otherwise.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal began hearing the case on Thursday, but the hearing ended yesterday with the settlement.
Cr Wilson told the Herald Sun last night the settlement had been a victory for common sense.
Cr Wilson said he was unsure how much his legal costs were but said they had been covered by Casey Council's insurers.
Casey Council chief executive Mike Tyler said the council had incurred its own legal costs of about $50,000 after it was joined as a respondent in Ms Watts' case against Cr Wilson.
Ms Watts later dropped her case against the council.

Spelling it out, I'm sorry

As Repression Lifts, More Iranians Change Their Sex

By Nazila Fathi
New York Times
August 2, 2004

Everything about Amir appears masculine: his broad chest, muscled arms, the dark full beard and deep voice. But, in fact, Amir was a woman until four years ago, when, at the age of 25, he underwent the first of a series of operations that would change his life.
Since then he has had 20 surgical procedures and expects another 4. And Amir, who as a woman was married twice to men - his second husband helped with the transition and remains a good friend - is now engaged to marry a woman.
"I love my life and I'm happy, as long as no one knows about my past identity," said Amir, who asked that his full name not be published. "No one has been more helpful than the judge, who was a cleric and issued the permit for my operation."
After decades of repression, the Islamic government is recognizing that some people want to change their sex, and allowing them to have operations and obtain new birth certificates.
Before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there was no particular policy regarding transsexuals. Iranians with the inclination, means and connections could obtain the necessary medical treatment and new identity documents. The new religious government, however, classed transsexuals and transvestites with gays and lesbians, who were condemned by Islam and faced the punishment of lashing under Iran's penal code.
But these days, Iran's Muslim clerics, who dominate the judiciary, are considerably better informed about transsexuality. Some clerics now even recommend sex-change operations to those who are troubled about their gender. The issue was discussed at a conference in Tehran in June that drew officials from other Persian Gulf countries.
One cleric, Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, is writing his thesis on transsexuality at the religious seminary of Qum.
"All the clerics and researchers at the seminary encouraged me to work on the subject," he said in an interview. "They said that my research can help change the social stigma attached to these people and clarify religious decrees on the matter."
One early campaigner for transsexual rights is Maryam Hatoon Molkara, who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon. Before the revolution, under the shah, he had longed to become a woman but could not afford surgery. Furthermore, he wanted religious guidance. In 1978, he wrote to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was to become the leader of the revolution but was still in exile, explaining his situation.
The ayatollah replied that his case was different from that of a homosexual and therefore he had his blessing.
However, the revolution intervened and men like himself or those who had already changed their sex were harassed, even jailed and tortured. "They made me stop wearing women's clothes, which I had worn for many years and was used to," Ms. Molkara recalled. "It was like torture for me. They even made me take hormones to look like a man.''
It took him eight years after the revolution, in 1986, to get government permission to proceed with surgery. But he could not afford the surgery and did not have it until 1997, when he underwent a sex-change operation in Bangkok. The Iranian government covered the expenses. Four years ago, Ms. Molkara established an organization to help those with gender-identity problems. Co-founders include Ali Razini, head of the Special Court of Clergy, a branch of the judiciary that only deals with clerics, and Zahra Shojai, Iran's vice president for women's affairs. An Islamic philanthropic group known as the Imam Khomeini Charity Foundation has agreed to provide loans equivalent to about $1,200 to help pay for sex-change surgery.
To obtain legal permission for sex-change operations and new birth certificates, applicants must provide medical proof of gender-identity disorder. The process can take years.
It also involves considerable expense. In Tehran, the initial male-to-female surgery runs about $4,000. So far, Amir has spent $12,000 on medical procedures.
The people who pursue this route come from many different backgrounds.
Dr. Bahram Mir-djalali, one of Tehran's few sex-reassignment surgeons, said one of his patients had been a member of the Revolutionary Guards who served five years in the war with Iraq. His operation was paid for by a Muslim cleric he had worked for as a secretary. After the surgery, the man-turned-woman divorced, and then married the cleric.
"When she came to see me years later, she was wearing a chador," the doctor recalled, referring to the black head-to-toe garb worn by religious women. "She took off the chador, and there was no sign of the bearded man I had operated on."
But many who cannot deal with the legal and financial obstacles to a surgical solution have to deal with humiliation in their daily lives.
One 27-year-old man said he ran away from home at the age of 14 because he did not dare tell his family of his urge to become a woman. He wants to be known as Susan and wears women's clothes at home but only emerges dressed that way at night. He says the constant need for secrecy has left him severely depressed, and he has attempted suicide several times.
"I have suffered all my life,'' he said, constantly adjusting his long curly hair to cover his sideburns. "People treat me as though I have come from Mars. Women pull my hair and laugh at me on the street. Most men I am attracted to reject me."
In a society where men enjoy a higher status than women, the stigma against any man who wants to be a woman is especially strong.
"They compliment a girl who behaves and dresses like a man as a strong person, but they look down at us and despise us," said Assal, who was disowned by her father for having surgery to become a woman.
Dr. Mir-djalali said he had to fight on many fronts to help more than 200 patients who had consulted him in the 12 years he had performed sex-change operations. Even if Iran's Muslim clerics are more understanding now of transsexuals' needs, others lag behind.
"We have a problem even deciding at which hospital to do the surgery because society considers these people deviant," he said. "Hospital officials have reacted negatively because they say other patients do not like the looks of my patients."
He said one patient's father pulled a knife on him in his office, and threatened to kill him if he touched his son. "What we really need to help these people,'' Dr. Mir-djalali said, "is a serious cultural campaign."

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Renee Reyes

One of the best, most useful and down right frank personal sites I've ever come across. Her 'Admirer's handbook' and 'Survival Guide' are a must read for anyone.

Dealing with abuse and living your life instead of hiding from it.

A lesson by Yamamoto Tsunetomo taken from the ‘HAGAKURE’

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along a road. But by doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Nepal: 39 transvestites arrested and at risk of torture

Amnesty International has issued an urgent international appeal on behalf of 39 male transvestites in Nepal who have been arrested and are at risk of ill-treatment and rape in police custody.
All 39 ‘metis’ (male transvestites) are members of the Blue Diamond Society, an organisation in Kathmandu that campaigns for the rights of sexual minorities and provides sexual health advice and support services. They were reportedly given no food or water for their first 15 hours in custody on the night of 9 August, and have not been charged with any offence.

Monday, August 16, 2004

WHAT IS LIFE? By Waldo ‘D.R.’ Dobbs.

Life is just this thing that people do when they’re not totally dead, man.
There is, like, this other school of thought which believes life to be a bowl of cherries, but I submit that they can be clearly told apart by the following method: take the object under consideration and discharge a completely humungous shotgun into it from like, about this far away.
If it sort of makes this weird little ‘eeeeee/iik’ noise, kicks its legs up and down for a while and then lies still, it was probably life.
If, on the other hand, it just leaves this funny stain on the carpet but is otherwise totally unexceptional, then, in my opinion, it was probably a bowl of cherries, man. Better luck next time.

Taken from the introduction from ‘D.R & Quinch’s totally awesome GUIDE TO LIFE’ by Alan Moore & Alan Davis.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Gay Marriage Controversy

Ohh... My god ! This is just so wrong.


IF you have some thing constructive to say about this, then post it at the JREF forum thread.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Fool’s Farewell

In that last dance of chances
I shall partner you no more.
I shall watch another turn you
As you move across the floor.

In that last dance of chances
When I bid your life goodbye
I will hope she treats you kindly.
I will hope you learn to fly.

In that last dance of chances
When I know you’ll not be mine
I will let you go with longing
And the hope that you’ll be fine.

In that last dance of chances
We shall know each other’s minds.
We shall part with our regrets
When the tie no longer binds.

The fool’s farewell – taken from ‘Fool’s Fate’ by Robin Hobb.

I’d been following the story from the beginning, and when I read this I wept. She shouldn't have chickened out with the ending. It would have made the story so much better.

Depraved Indifference

ZNet Gender

Depraved Indifference
Caesareans, Patriarchy, and Women's Health
by Mickey Z; March 15, 2004

Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, of Salt Lake City was pregnant with twins. Her doctors claim they warned her about complications requiring a Caesarean section. Without the procedure, they believed the unborn twins might not survive. According to a nurse, Rowland refused the C-section because she didn't want scars.

Rowland's attorney, Michael Sikora, says his client has a long history of mental illness. He called a C-section major surgery and explained, "It would come as no surprise that a woman with major mental illness would fear it."

Only one of the twins survived childbirth.

Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, of Salt Lake City was arrested and charged with one first-degree felony count of criminal homicide: "depraved indifference to human life." If convicted, she faces between five years and life in prison.

As of this writing, many things are unclear, i.e. whether Rowland was warned, how she was warned, if and why she ignored the warning, along with any useful details about her mental state. The media has dutifully run photos of Rowland in an pinkish prison jumpsuit; hair splayed out in all directions...fulfilling any spectator's notion of what a mother with "depraved indifference to human life" might look like. One source is now reporting she was convicted of child endangerment in Pittsburgh nearly four years ago.

Unexamined in the press reports is the efficacy of the C-section and the state of women's health care in America. We'll get to those in a moment. One tangential issue raised in an Associated Press article involved "the prosecution of mothers who smoke or don't follow their obstetrician's diet."

"It's very troubling to have somebody come in and say we're going to charge this mother for murder because we don't like the choices she made," said Marguerite Driessen, a law professor at Brigham Young University.

I'm no fan of taxpayer subsidized lung cancer, but we're talking about arresting women for smoking...not because they might hurt themselves but all in the name of protecting the unborn (sound familiar?). If you really wanna go the police state route, what about potential fathers who knowingly engage in unhealthy habits? It takes they say. As for the obstetrician's dietary suggestions, well, I've written plenty about that topic so I'll remind readers that the typical American doctor sits through only two to four classroom hours of nutrition during medical school ...and leave it at that.

Ruth Hubbard is professor emerita of biology at Harvard and the first woman to be given a tenured biology professorship there. "The so-called war on drugs has produced a situation in which a single blood test on a pregnant woman or a newborn is sufficient to label that woman a drug abuser and call in the state," she says. "I suppose most people would agree that it is not a good thing for pregnant women to drink excessive amounts of alcohol or to smoke or use drugs. But if the state wants to protect a fetus, the way to do that is make it possible for pregnant women-and women in general-to have access to proper housing, food, jobs, a decent living environment, and good prenatal care."

What qualifies as good prenatal care, however, is not so easily defined...which brings us back to the C-section procedure.

"Our birth practices are crazy," says author and health advocate, John Robbins. "We have a Caesarean rate of 23 percent, which means that nearly a quarter of our newcomers is surgically extracted from their mothers' wombs." This is not so shocking when one takes a look at the male- and profit-driven world of Western medicine. "Natural birth can take place anytime, day or night," says Robbins. "There's no telling how long the labor will last, and there's no predicting when the baby will emerge. Caesareans, on the other hand, can be arranged to take place at the convenience of the hospital and the obstetrician."

Since the advent of direct tests of fetal health in the 1960s, the process of birthing has become progressively more medicalized and the role of the obstetrician (typically male) has dramatically increased. The man in the white coat has been transformed into an expert needed by women who are made to feel incapable. If that omnipotent obstetrician attended medical school in the 1970s, he may have used the textbook, "Obstetrics and Gynecology," which includes this appraisal of the women they will be treating: "The traits that compose the core of the female personality are feminine narcissism, masochism, and passivity." If he got his degree anytime from the 80s on, his text could have been "Medical, Surgical, and Gynecological Complications of Pregnancy," which warns future doctors how "dangerous" those patients "who consider themselves 'socially aware'" are. That type of woman is "not necessarily more mature but are trying, by their active interest in everything 'avant garde,' socially as well as medically, to persuade themselves and other that they are...This is the patient who is interested in such methods as 'natural childbirth,' hypnosis, of using childbirth as an 'experience'."

Recalling the example of Melissa Ann Rowland, the text concludes that such a woman "requires close and constant psychiatric support."

In his book, "Reclaiming Our Health," John Robbins points out a delicious judgment of the standard obstetrical text, "Williams Obstetrics": "The 15th edition is 923 pages long. In the index there appears an entry that was apparently slipped in unnoticed by some brave soul who, faced with the tedious task of preparing the index, wanted to voice his or her opinion about the book. The line reads: 'Chauvinism, male, pages 1-923'."

There's more than chauvinism at work in the C-section issue when obstetricians and hospitals are more highly reimbursed for surgical births than for vaginal births. "In the state of Washington," Robbins explains, "the Caesarean rate in nonprofit hospitals is 20%, while the rate in for-profit hospitals is 36%. A few years ago a Kansas health maintenance organization (HMO) changed its policies and began to reimburse doctors equally for Caesarean and normal deliveries, so there was no longer a financial incentive to do Caesareans. The Caesarean rate dropped from 28.7% to 13.5% in one year."

Upon closer examination, one will find that the entire system of medical research is tainted by patriarchy and profit. "Biologists and physicians have traditionally been men and have thought of males as the norm," says Ruth Hubbard. "And they have taught us to think of the ways in which women's bodies are different from men's as deviations from this norm."

Conditions that affect men and women equally-heart disease, certain cancers, etc.-are heavily researched, for sure. But they are studied "almost exclusively in men," says Hubbard. "Little research has been done on lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and other conditions that affect primarily women. No one even understands why their incidence is skewed."

Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, of Salt Lake City may or may not have received sound medical advice and she may or may not have ignored it and this may or may not have contributed to the death of her child. We can only hope the truth is found amidst the scapegoating and hysteria. However, what we can focus on now is how demonizing Rowland and criminalizing her choices is yet another episode in a long, sad history of male- and profit-dominated medicine.

"To be both useful and benign," concludes Hubbard, "science needs to draw on the experience of people who are usually disqualified fro making science, like women." In his book, Robbins offers examples of many women who are "beginning to stand up to this exploitation...They are saying no to unnecessary drugs and surgery, and using safe and natural methods...Their lives are messages to us all, male and female, of hope and inspiration."

Our job is to make sure that hope and inspiration is transformed into widespread awareness and tangible action.

Suggested reading: "Profitable Promises: Essays on Women, Science, and Health," by Ruth Hubbard (Common Courage Press) "Reclaiming Our Health: Exploding the Medical Myth and Embracing the Source of True Healing," by John Robbins (HJ Kramer)

Mickey Z. is the author of two upcoming books: "A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense" (Prime Books) and "Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda" (Common Courage Press). He can be reached at

Man ostracised after sex change

10 July 2004 - India

Kolkata - A man who changed his sex to marry another man is facing social boycott and threats in Jhargram, West Bengal, where his sexuality is called "sinister". Somnath Banerjee took the name Manabi, after he underwent a sex operation, but a section of the townspeople says he is corrupting young minds. He married his male partner Abhijit Pahari. Their marriage reportedly has doubtful validity in India that doesn¹t recognise homosexuality or gay unions.

Trouble started when people saw Banerjee - now a woman - living with a man. To the angry townspeople, he was of "funny sexuality". "The first of the problems began with my landlord who started to conspire to evict me," Banerjee said. He was jeered on the streets, his house attacked by hoodlums and was locked out of his home by his landlord, who even "disconnected his waterlines".

"I went to police and civic authorities but received no help," said Banerjee. He said even local politicians ganged up against him. His worst blow came when Pahari was taken away by his family. A section of local people said Banerjee was carrying on "sinister and anti-social activities" and, finally, some branded him a witch. After knocking at the doors of police, Banerjee turned to the state women¹s commission, which approached the district authorities, who finally warned Banerjee's landlord against disturbing him. But Banerjee remains apprehensive.

Krittivas Mukherjee

Fractal Goodness

Janet Parke - Hmmm.....Her Kung Fu is SUPERIOR Kung Fu....

I've admired her work for a long time. She has a true talent.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Transgender in india.

For those of you who think we have a hard time in the UK read this and weep !
Human Rights Violations against the Transgender Community: A PUCL Report 03 July 2004 - India
A Study of Kothi and Hijra Sex Workers in Bangalore Presented below is an extended summary. Instruction for obtaining the complete report are given at the bottom.

Human Rights Violations against SexualityMinorities in India (2000) A PUCL Report

This poignant expose of human, and human rights, violations against transgender persons and communities should be compulsory reading for Indian human rights communities. The dominant discourse on human rights in India has yet to come to terms with the production/reproduction of absolute human rightlessness of transgender communities. The work in your hands not merely foregrounds the microfacism of the local police state, it also archives practices of everyday resistance to it and a programschrift for a more inclusive formation of human rights movement in India.
At stake is the human right to be different, the right to recognition of different pathways of sexuality, a right to immunity from the oppressive and repressive labeling of despised sexuality. Such a human right does not yet exist in India; this work summons activist energies first towards its fully-fledged normative enunciation and second towards its attainment, enjoyment, and realization. Always a formidable enterprise, it remains even more so in the contemporary regime-sponsored xenophobic militant Hindutva 'culture' -- From the Foreword to the Report by Upendra Baxi
Last year, four kothi sex workers, Seeta , Sheela, Vimla, and Malathi (names changed here and throughout to maintain confidentiality) were picked up from the streets by the police and taken to Sampangiramanagara police station in Bangalore. In the police station, they were harassed and severely beaten up, resulting in injuries on their hands, arms and feet. They were later released, without any charges, but with a warning that they should not be seen on the streets of Bangalore again. In a state of considerable physical anguish and despite feeling insecure about appearing in public, they approached Sangama, a sexuality minority rights organization with this complaint. In response to the complaint mentioned above about recurring and pervasive police violence against kothi and hijra sex workers in Bangalore, People's Union for Civil Liberties (Karnataka) alongwith other human rights organizations such as Alternative Law forum, Development Initiative for Social Causes, People¹s Democratic Forum, Sangama and Vimochana decided to institute a joint fact-finding to go into such human rights violations, and suggest measures for redressal of grievances and securing justice.
Basically, this report (of which we are presenting a summary here) documents personal anecdotes and experiences that were shared by hijra and kothi sex workers in a series of group meetings. These testimonies were corroborated by the accounts of a number of hijra sex workers in a meeting with the Bangalore press arranged by PUCL on April 12, 2002. This was extensively reported in a number of English and Kannada newspapers such as Asian Age, Janavahini, Samyukta Karnataka etc. The report also draws on these press accounts.
This report is a sequel to the first PUCL report on Human Rights Violations against SexualityMinorities in India (2000) that documented violations against all sexuality minorities. This report focuses on the hijra and kothi sex workers, primarily because of the lack of enough information on these communities. It also uses information about hijras and kothis collected in the earlier report in order to ensure that this report can be read independently of the first report.
In this report, we have consciously tried to avoid the lens of medicine and anthropology in defining the transgender community and have instead sought to look at the transgenders as a culture, a community and a movement. Our purpose is not to exoticise lives of hijras and kothis but to bridge the wide information gap as well as to bring about a measure of recognition and respect for these communities.
Violence and Abuse: Testimonies of Kothi and Hijra Sex Workers From the human rights perspective, the central concern about hijra and kothi pertains to the state and societal violence inflicted on them. To convey a picture of the pervasive nature of the everyday violence as well as to conceptualize the different kinds of violence, we present two narratives where violence plays a dominant part.

Sachin's story

My name is Sachin and I am 23 years old. I am the fifth child in a family of four elder sisters. As a child I always enjoyed putting make-up like 'vibhuti' or 'kum kum' and my parents always saw me as a girl. I am male but I have only female feelings. I used to help my mother in all the housework like cooking, washing and cleaning. Over the years my sisters got married, my parents became old. I was around seventeen years. I started assuming more of the domestic responsibilities at home.
The neighbours started teasing me. They would call out to me and say "why don't you go out and work like a man?" or "why are you staying at home like a girl?" But I liked being a girl. I felt shy about going out and working. Relatives would also mock and scold me on this score. Everyday I would go out of the house to bring water. And as I walked back with the water I would always be teased. I felt very ashamed. I even felt suicidal. How could I live like that? But my parents never protested. They were helpless.
Then one day my parents asked me to leave the village to avoid the shame. "Go work somewhere else", they said. I don¹t know how to read or write, I never went to school, how would I ever get a job? That night I cried a lot. I realised that for my parents respect in society was much more important than their own son. I drank some rat poison, hoping to kill myself. But I started throwing up which woke my parents up. They rushed me to the hospital where I recovered. I told my parents, "You wanted me to leave, I have nowhere to go. No education. No skills. I wanted to kill myself."
After this incident, I decided to leave home. One night, I took my suitcase with five shirts and five pants. With Rs 500 in my pocket I left for Tirupathi. I sat outside the temple and cried. Then an old man came and asked me why I was crying ­ I told him my complete story. I told him that I like wearing sarees, make up, flowers in my hair. He heard my story and told me about the hijra community. He asked me to go and join them. That was the first time I heard about the hijras.
Later on I was sitting outside the temple, wearing a shirt and pants but with some make-up, when someone picked me up and asked me to come along to his hotel room. I had sex with him. He was very nice. He was leaving that evening but had paid for the hotel room till the next morning and asked me to stay there till the next morning. He also gave me Rs.200.
Since I had the room to myself that night, I went out in the park and managed to pick up two more guys. I brought them back and had sex with them in my room. They both gave me Rs.100 each. This changed my life. I suddenly realised that I wasn¹t useless. I could take care of my self, I could now live ­ through sex work.
From Tirupathi I moved to Bangalore where I made friends with some hijras. They helped me get a job at Bangalore Dairy in Hosur Road. There were three shifts of 8 hours each. I had the night shift. I would try to be very masculine at work, walk and talk like a man but people still noticed that I was effeminate, they realised that I was a hijra. In fact one of the employees came to me and asked for a blow job. I refused saying that I was a man and not a hijra.
In the Dairy I had just one friend, who I was very close to but it was nothing sexual. During the night shift most people would go up and sleep on the terrace. This friend of mine called me to sleep next to him on the terrace one night. As I went to sleep, some one just took my hands and cupped them on the floor and four guys one after the other had anal sex with me. I realised later that this friend of mine was making money out of it. Next day the inspector of the dairy knew all about what had happened on the terrace. Instead of helping me, he screamed at me and fired me from the job.
I moved in with an old friend of mine from the village, who gave me shelter. Getting a job was very difficult. Wherever I went they asked for qualifications and a smart appearance, neither of which I possess. Finally I got a job in one office. The owner needed an office boy who would also have sex with him. I co-operated. But I wasn't satisfied doing both of these things and the pay was also very low. So I just decided to do sex work directly. But sex work was not easy. The police would just come in the night, see me walking in 'satla' (drag) and would just hit me with a lathi. I became scared of even walking on the streets.
Then I learned about my rights. Things like one should not have sex in public spaces but try and have it in private spaces. Then Preethi asked me to join her. She introduced me to everyone and this way I started helping other kothis and hijras who were doing sex work.
I once called my parents after years, they cried a lot. I said I can't come home because you are embarrassed of me. Then my parents suggested that I come home in the night instead of coming during the day. I followed their advice and went to visit them for the first time after I had left home. I reached home in the night. We had a great time, we ate in the night, talked a lot, and it felt good to be back at home. But suddenly it was nearing dawn and my parents asked me to leave before sunrise.
On my next visit I learnt that my parents had heard from other people that I had become a hijra in Bangalore. This time they interrogated me and my mother insisted that I show her proof that I haven't been castrated. I had to undo my pants in front of my mother, which was very embarrassing. I am an akwa. My mother was very relieved.
I am beginning to see a change in the way my family treats me. Now because I am earning, my mother wants me to stay at home. When I go back to the village, no one says anything, because I am earning now. My mother asks me for a fan, a tape recorder, a new stove. I have been giving them money for all this. I have also bought jewellery and other presents for my sisters' kids.
Sex work is not always easy. Often, clients having sex with me would reach an orgasm and then quickly runaway without paying. I used to go to the park to pick up customers. Once I met a man but he was a police officer. He asked me to come and have sex with him. I asked for Rs.50 but he said that he would only give me Rs.20. I said o.k. and started sucking him. But after he came he just walked away. I stopped him and asked him for my money but he said that he won't pay. I told him that I would complain, and he laughed at me stating that I had no proof. Then I showed him the condom, tied carefully in a knot that still had his sperm. He said, "who knows that it¹s mine?" and left the place.
Once a customer picked me up and took me in his car on the Ring Road. We got off the car in the middle of the road and went into the bushes. After he had had his fun, the customer went into the car first, telling me to wait and come out in five minutes to avoid suspicion. But the minute I came out of the bushes the man drove off in his car leaving me alone at 10 p.m. in the middle of the Ring Road. What scared me most was that my pants and shirt were in his car. I was staying with friends in a rented apartment and so I had to change my clothes. I could not go back home in the 'satla'. I was terrified. Then suddenly a policeman came and caught me. He took me back in the bushes and asked me to take all my clothes off. He wanted to see if I could get my penis up. I was completely naked and terrified. Then he started hitting me with a lathi. I begged on his feet to leave me. I also gave him Rs.100.
Then he asked me to leave in a naked condition, refusing to return my clothes. But as I turned I could sense that he was getting sexually aroused. He wanted to fuck me. I didn't have a condom. I didn¹t even like taking it in the backside. Then he hit me very hard. He covered my mouth with his hand and started fucking me. He was very big, and without a condom, it was all so painful. My ass was bleeding. I could feel blood going down on my thighs. The policeman shouted at me, saying "Hey, stop crying. I will hit you again if you cried". Then he lifted me, asked me to bend and fucked me more. Finally he was done and he left, thankfully leaving my clothes with me. I put on my 'satla' and was walking slowly on the street. I was under a lot of pain. But unfortunately it wasn't over yet. A small tourist van came and stopped in front of me on the road. There were around seven people in it, two sleeping and the others drinking and smoking. They asked me what I was doing in the middle of the night and dragged me into the van.
They forced some alcohol down my throat and also forced me to smoke. I got a bit drunk. Then they took an empty bottle, broke it in half against the car window and gashed my arm with it. I bled very badly. I still have these two huge marks on my hands. My right hand was full of blood. They wanted to have sex with me. I was tired and angry. I screamed. I said "you want to have sex with me, o.k. then all of you can have sex with me". I was tired of fighting it.
They stopped the car, took me into the field, put me down and started having sex with me. I was forced to have anal and oral intercourse with all of them, one after the other, even sometimes together. I was still bleeding. After it was all over, I just lay there exhausted and completely lost. I stopped thinking. It was already dawn, 5 a.m.
I somehow dragged myself to a hijra's house close by. I woke her up and she took me inside, gave me a lungi and a shirt to wear. She washed me, nursed me and took me to the hospital. This incident took place in 2001, after which I learnt an important lesson. I never wear satla during sex work now. I only wear satla in hijra functions.
I have moved on now. I now help other kothis and hijras by teaching them and giving them all the information that I have learnt. I don¹t believe in any god any more (Hindu or Muslim). They have never helped me at all. Now I have my own hands and I do sex work and fend for myself.

Smita's story

Smita for the past three years has been living with her husband Tejasvi . On the night of 18 March 2002, at around 9 p.m she and her husband were standing in front of a commercial complex on St. Marks Road (opposite Bishop Cotton Girls' High School gate, in front of "Richie Rich" Ice Cream Parlour). Four policemen in a Hoysala van (no. 1) dragged her by her hair and pushed her into the van by force, snatching away her mobile phone.
One of the policemen sat on Tejasvi's scooter and forced him to drive the vehicle to the Cubbon Park Police Station. Smita was also taken to the Cubbon Park Police Station in the Hoysala van, and on the way to the police station, two policemen who sat beside her in the van sexually harassed her by fondling her breasts.
In the police station, she was pushed into a room with her husband. 15-20 policemen stripped her naked in the presence of a senior police officer (Circle Inspector Munirathnam Naidu) who was in the Police Station at that time. Smita describes him to be "around 50 years old, wheatish skin colour, 5'4" in height and very fat". All the 15-20 police men stood around her, sexually abusing her by touching all over her naked body. They humiliated her further by forcing her to spread her thighs and touching her sexual organs.
Many of them hit her with lathis on her head, hands, thighs, shoulders etc. They also attempted to shave off her hair. She continuously begged them to let her go and even fell at their feet. They verbally abused her by repeatedly referring to her as "khoja, gandu, bastard, son of a bitch" and used the foulest language as they continued to beat her, making vile comments like: "did you come here to get fucked anally?" "whose cocks did you come here to suck?" "People get AIDS from you, one day you will die of AIDS, chakka, I will fuck your mother".
They also stripped Tejasvi and physically attacked him. They slapped him, hit him all over with their lathis and kicked him with their shoes. They verbally abused him as well.
It was only after Family, an employee of Sangama, came to the police station and intervened, that Smita was released at around 10 p.m, and was threatened with dire consequences to her husband if she informed anyone about the matter. Fearing for her husband's safety, Smita immediately wrote out a plea and faxed it to V.V. Bhaskar (Director General of Police, Karnataka), and to the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.
The next day it was revealed that the police had booked Smita and her husband Tejasvi under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act. Tejasvi was produced before the court on the 19th where he stated that the police had beaten him up. The magistrate ordered a medical examination and also ordered the Police Circle Inspector Munirathnam Naidu to be present during the hearing the next day. The medical examination report has clearly stated that Tejasvi had multiple injuries on his left arm. Tejasvi was released on bail the same day. Smita went underground to escape arrest by the police who a few weeks later rearrested her and kept her in jail for a week on a false charge of running a brothel. She moved an application for anticipatory bail and had to spend most of her life savings to get out on bail. While Smita's case spurred the community to act and brought about an improvement in the treatment by the police of hijra and kothi sex workers in Bangalore, Smita continues to attend court hearings in this case which is presently being represented by Sangama's lawy

The above narratives are indeed brutal and shocking instances of violence. However, such violence is not isolated and exceptional but incessant, widespread and an ever-present reality of the daily life of hijra and kothi sex workers in Bangalore. The violence is committed not always by the police or the state but, as the narratives show, by the general public itself. The source of such violence is clearly the prejudice about hijras' "deviant" sexuality and gender identity which transgresses society's binary division of gender into male and female ­ indicating that what appears as random and arbitrary violence is in fact part of a methodical policing for the preservation of mainstream, therefore heterosexist, society.
Disturbing as these narratives are, they have yet to be picked up by mainstream human rights community in India. It is important that these narratives become part of our understanding of human suffering.
If one is to understand the nature of the violence against kothis and hijras, what emerges clearly is the all-encompassing nature of the violence, its roots in both state and civil society, the nature of surveillance by the state, and the deeply sexual nature of the violence.
Sexual violence is a constant, pervasive theme in all the narratives that we've our report. Along with subjection to physical violence such as beatings and threats of disfigurement with acid bulbs, the sexuality of the hijra also becomes a target of prurient curiosity, at the least, which leads to brutal violence, at the most. As the narratives indicate, the police constantly degrade hijras by asking them sexual questions, feel up their breasts, strip them, and in some cases rape them. With or without the element of physical violence, such actions constitute a violation of the integrity and privacy of the very sexual being of the person. The police attitude seems to be that since kothis and hijras engage in sex work, they are not entitled to any rights of sexual citizenship.
The reason why the sexuality of hijras incites such gratuitous violence could be two-fold. First, since sexuality is often the most intimate part of a person, sexual abuse and violence can be seen as the most systematic tool of dehumanizing an individual. Second, the sexual nature of the violation can be understood as an apt punishment for a trangressive sexuality. Since this nonconformative, yet highly visible sexuality of hijras is so deeply threatening to the conventional social order, a punishment centering on a targeting of sexuality is deemed most effective.
Apart from the sexual nature of the violence, another feature of the violence against kothis and hijras is its pervasiveness as an everyday reality. No space in which the hijras move is free from violence or the threat of violence. Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that the police in Swati's case (mentioned above) intruded on the hijras' home at will. The violence itself owes something to a systemic pattern of police harassment and violence, extortion and the manifestly illegal and even criminal wrongdoing of the police.
However the pervasive and deeply sexual nature of the violence cannot be explained by reference to the police alone. It is social institutions such as the family, the media, and the medical establishment which constantly reinforce the idea that the norm is for a biological male to behave in a "gender appropriate" manner, i.e. like a man, and thereby legitimize the violence suffered by hijras and kothis.

The Family

Most media portrays the family as a haven in which the individual finds fulfillment, love and peace. This commonsense about the institution of the family is further buttressed by international human rights law. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document of human rights law, "the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state" (Article 16)
Underlying this discourse on the family is the presumption that it is an essential structure even for the protection for the protection of human rights, including the rights of liberty and dignity. However, for the hijra and kothi communities the experience of the family is frighteningly different. The institution of the family plays a significant role in the marginalization of hijras and kothis. Instead of protecting their child from the violence inflicted by the wider society, the family in fact provides an arena to act out the intolerances of the wider society. Those who violate the existing social codes which prescribe how a man is to behave are subject to daily humiliation, beatings and expulsion from the family itself.
In this context of extreme violence and intolerance, the only cultural space available for transgenders in India is the hijra community. Given the enormous sense of isolation faced by the hijras, particularly in close-knit communities in the villages, the only solace or hope is when they get to know that there exist other people like them who live in the bigger cities. This in turn contributes to the formation of the hijra community as a largely urban phenomenon.
However the attitudes of the family sometimes change to a grudging acceptance once the hijra returns to the home after becoming financially independent. While in some cases the return is welcome because of the hijra¹s ability to financially support the family, in others, the fact of the hijra now doing sex work makes the acceptance that much more difficult.
The extreme stigmatization surrounding transgressions around alternative sexuality as well as sex work makes it extremely difficult for families to accept their children. Further there are very few cultural/social resources for families to draw upon that will enable them to understand the sexual and gender identity and behavior of their children.

The Law

The law in India is a powerful force to control the hijra and kothi communities. It criminalizes the very existence of hijras and kothis, making the police an omnipresent reality in their lives. Apart from criminal laws which have invited the unwarranted authority of the police in their lives, civil law has not heeded the demands of citizenship and equality for the hijras and kothis. In the following section, we will consider the following:
Historical Background: The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code
Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1986

Civil Laws

1) Historical Background: The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871
The roots of contemporary violence can in fact be traced back to the historical form that modern law in colonial India has taken. The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, was an extraordinary legislation that departed from the principles upon which the Indian Penal Code was based. It mainly targeted itinerant communities comprising entertainers such as acrobats, singers, dancers, tightrope walkers, and fortune-tellers, who were perceived as a threat to the order of sedentary societies. These communities and tribes were perceived to be criminals by birth, with criminality being passed on from generation to generation. It fitted in well with the hierarchical Indian social order, in which some communities were perceived as unclean and polluted from birth. The idea of criminal tribes was based on the notion that "crime as a profession passed on from one generation of criminal caste to another: like a carpenter would pass on his trade to the next generation, hereditary criminal caste members would pass on this profession to their offspring."
The linking of the criminal tribes to sexual non-conformity was entailed in the perception on the part of the colonial administration that criminalization itself was traceable to the perceived licentiousness of the itinerant communities. As Meena Radhakrishna notes, "for the keepers of social morality, [their] lack of visible social institutions implied complete disorder in their community life. Their lack of written codes of conduct, and absence of articulated norms of morality implied absolute licentiousness."
The link between criminality and sexual non-conformity was made more explicit in the 1897 amendment to the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, which was sub-titled 'An Act for the Registration of Criminal Tribes and Eunuchs' Under the provisions of this statute, a eunuch was "deemed to include all members of the male sex who admit themselves, or on medical inspection clearly appear, to be impotent." The local government was required to keep a register of the names and residences of all eunuchs who are "reasonably suspected of kidnapping or castrating children or of committing offences under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code". Any eunuch so registered who appeared "dressed or ornamented like a woman in a public streets, or who dances or plays music or takes part in any public exhibition, in a public streets,[could] be arrested without warrant and punished with imprisonment of up to two years or with a fine or both." If the eunuch so registered had in his charge a boy under the age of 16 years within his control or residing in his house, he could be punished with imprisonment of up to two years or fine or both. A phrase used by a British officer for the criminal tribes is equally appropriate to describe the colonial perception of the eunuchs: "they are absolutely the scum, the flotsam and the jetsam of Indian life, of no more regard than the beasts of the field."
The sexual non-conformity of the eunuch thus earned severe strictures and penalties from the colonial administration. Being a eunuch was itself a criminal enterprise, with surveillance being the everyday reality. The surveillance mechanism criminalized the quotidian reality of a eunuch's existence by making its manifest sign, i.e. cross-dressing, a criminal offence. Further the ways in which eunuchs earned their livelihood, i.e. singing and dancing, were criminalised. Thus, every aspect of the eunuch's existence was subject to surveillance, premised on the threat of criminal action. The police, inflicting violence through and outside law, thus became an overt and overwhelming presence in the lives of eunuchs as well as of the former criminal tribes. Further, the very concept of personhood of eunuchs was done away with through disentitling them from basic rights such as making a gift or adopting a son.
Even the criminal tribes, hard as their lot was, had some voices of support in the nationalist movement. Jawaharlal Nehru, for example, noted that "I am aware of the monstrous provisions of the Criminal Tribes Act which constitute a negation of civil liberty. An attempt should be made to have the Act removed from the statute book. No tribe can be classed as criminal as such and the whole principle is out of consonance with all civilized principles of criminal justice and treatment of offenders." However, such was not the case of the eunuchs, who were completely marginalized in all discourses save the discourse of criminal law, in which their sexuality and gender identity were conceptualised as a state of criminality, and the discourse of civil law, in which they emerged as subjects without even the limited rights of other colonial subjects.
What is important about this historical background is that the contemporary perception of hijras as thieves as well as the brutal violence which is inflicited against them can be traced back to this colonial legislation which stands repealed today in theory but continues to exist as part of the living culture of law.
2. Sec 377 of the Indian Penal Code
Sec 377 of the 1860 Code was drafted by Lord Macaulay. It comes under the Section titled 'Offences Affecting the Human Body' and follows the section on the offence of rape. It is not clear in what way the offence defined under Sec 377 is an offence against the human body. Its jurisprudential basis is rather the conceptualisation of a specific morality of gender and sexual conformity and the need to enforce the same on the Indian subjects
Sec 377 of the IPC reads:
Unnatural offences. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.
This provision provides the sanction for the prosecution of certain kinds of sexual acts deemed to be unnatural. It is important to note that regardless of consent these sexual acts are liable for prosecution provided they are seen as carnal intercourse against the order of nature, with man, woman, or animal and, thus satisfy the requirement of penetration. To understand the nature and scope of Sec 377 one would have to study the judicial decisions under Sec 377. An analysis reveals that carnal intercourse against the order of nature is conceptualized to include oral sex, anal sex and even thigh sex thereby broadening the meaning of penetration beyond penile-anal penetration. Basically any form of sex which does not result in procreation comes within the rubric of Sec 377.
Section 377 might not seem to be a very dangerous provision in the context of hijras or kothis if the acts were read to be acts which all human beings engaged in. However due to the nature of the homophobic discourse, these acts are specifically located in the bodies of queer people. To be a homosexual or a hijra is to draw the presumption that the hijra or the homosexual is engaging in "carnal intercourse against the order of nature"
This particular interpretation of Sec. 377 means that all queer people, particularly the kothi and hijra sex worker population, are particularly vulnerable to harassment under this provision. Going by the nature of availability of space, most often it is these marginalized populations who engage in the sexual activity proscribed under Sec. 377 in public areas such as parks and public toilets and hence end up being vulnerable to arrest.
The case law indicates that Sec 377 has not been used extensively to prosecute cases of consensual sex. However this does not limit its significant role in perpetuating a certain kind of discourse about queer people which classifies certain social groups as criminal and stigmatizes their sexual behaviour. It's extraordinary that though one reading of Sec. 377 is that it expressly excludes lesbianism by virtue of the "Explanation requiring sufficient penetration necessary to constitute the offence", it has been read expansively by State authorities to harass and intimidate lesbian women as well. The discourse which constructed queer people as "unnatural" and "perverted" therefore has the effect of legitimizing violence against all queer people. Further the law has the effect of practically shutting out any further talk of queer rights as all actors rely on the criminality of sodomy to legitimize discrimination against queer people.
3. Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1986
The chief instrument of the Indian state's regulation of prostitution is Immoral Traffic Prevention Act of 1956 (amended in 1986), whose mandate is to prevent the traffic of women and children into prostitution. According to Sec 5(f) the original Act of 1956, the volitional act of "a female offering her body for promiscuous sexual intercourse for hire whether in money or kind" is liable for prosecution. Under Sec 5(f) of the amended Act of 1986, there is a shift of focus from commercial sex undertaken voluntarily to "the sexual exploitation or abuse of persons." The stated objective of the law on trafficking is not to criminalize prostitution per se but to criminalize brothel keeping, trafficking, pimping and soliciting. In actuality, the enforcement of ITPA invariably targets the visible figure of the sex worker (who is also the weakest link in the chain) and generally spares the hidden and powerful system that supports the institution of sex work. Thus the operational parts of the ITPA are Sections 7 and 8, which deal respectively with prostitution in public places and soliciting. In fact the majority of arrests of the sex worker take place under Sec 8, which defines the offence of soliciting for purpose of prostitution. This definition makes it clear that under Indian law sex workers may, so to speak, exist but not be seen: sex work is allowed to exist as "a necessary evil" because it serves a male sexual need, but its practice has to be continually hedged around with legal strictures, police harassment and intimidation.
In modern Indian society, the State and its apparatuses lawmakers to put down sex trafficking and rehabilitate female sex workers but in ways that violate their fundamental civil, economic, social and sexual rights, and expose them to organised violence, public stigma and discrimination.
The ITPA has so far been analyzed as applying to women in prostitution, proceeding on the assumption that it is women who are targeted by the ITPA. The original Act of 1956 was entitled "Suppression in Immoral Trafficking in Women and Girls Act". Sec 2(f) defined prostitution as "a female offering her body for promiscuous sexual intercourse for hire whether in money or kind" This Act in all its provisions specifically targeted the female gender. However with the 1986 amendment, the title was modified to "Immoral Traffic Prevention Act," and it became gender neutral. The words "female" and "girls" were substituted by the word "person" throughout the Act [Sec (f), Sec 2(aa), Sec (ca), Sec (cb)]. The ambit of the Act now applied to both male and female sex workers and possibly also to those whose gender identity was indeterminate. It is with the 1986 amendment that both male and hijra sex workers became criminal subjects of the ITPA. This provided the legal basis for arrest and intimidation of the transgender sex worker population.
Thus, under ITPA, all sex workers, male and female, face state violence and public stigma and discrimination. On grounds of preventing immoral trafficking and protecting public order and decency, the police exclusively target people in prostitution instead of the institution of prostitution, including brothel keepers and clients. Often the police proceed against the sex workers without any evidence of solicitation (as is required under Section 8 of ITPA) and merely on the suspicion that they are prostitutes. This produces an underclass of permanently targeted people who at any time are liable to be assaulted in public, merely because they happen to be there, taken away to the police station, wrongfully confined and restrained there, subjected to humiliating treatment, their earnings taken away. Sometimes, false cases are lodged against them which serves the double purpose of "solving" an existing case and keeping the sex workers off the street.
4.Civil Laws
As per the Constitution most of the protections under the Fundamental Rights Chapter are available to all persons with some rights being restricted to only citizens. Beyond this categorization the Constitution makes no further distinction among rights holders. However this de jure position is not reflected in the various laws governing the civil conduct of human beings.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the treatment of marginalized categories such as transgender sex workers. If one considers the position of hijras and kothis, it is clear that gender non-conformity adversely affects their ability to access basic civil rights otherwise available to all other citizens.
Official identity papers provide civil personhood. Among the instruments by which the Indian state defines civil personhood, sexual (gender) identity is a crucial and unavoidable category. Identification on the basis of sex within the binaries of male and female is a crucial component of civil identity as required by the Indian state. The Indian state's policy of recognizing only two sexes and refusing to recognize hijras as women, or as a third sex (if a hijra wants it), has deprived them at a stroke of several rights that Indian citizens take for granted. These rights include the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to marry, the right to claim a formal identity through a passport and a ration card, a driver's license, the right to education, employment, health so on. (Nevertheless, some hijras have managed to obtain a ration card, a driving license or a passport by declaring themselves as women.) Such deprivation secludes hijras from the very fabric of Indian civil society.
In north India there are instances of hijras standing for election and winning elections as MLAs, mayors and councillors. These elections however become vulnerable to legal challenge precisely because of the difference between the sex at birth (male) and the assumed gender identity (female). Thus in a recent case, the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the order of an election tribunal which nullified the election of a hijra, Kamala Jaan, to the post of Mayor of Katni on the ground that it was a seat reserved for women and that Kamala, being a "male", was not entitled to contest the seat. Similarly, the election of Asha Rani the mayor of Gorakhpur was annulled by the court on the ground that she was not biologically female. These decisions essentially imply that one cannot choose one's sex and that one should remain within the sex into which one is born. The fixing of sex at birth as the sex for all subsequent legal transactions means that a hijra who wishes to claim her legal sex as female while being born a male is unable to do so. Thus the binary classification of gender into male and female which does not recognize a third gender category turns the transgender status of hijras into that of a legal nonentity. It is a cruel paradox that while the transgender identity of hijras poses no problems to the operation of criminal law and its role in criminalizing hijra existence itself, the transgender identity becomes a stumbling block in accessing rights under civil law.

The Media

The representation of kothis, hijras, homosexuals and transgender sex workers in the media constructs the filters through which these marginalized communities are perceived and hence treated. In reporting about kothis, hijras and transgender sex workers, the local media (both English and Kannada) follows the heterosexist logic of seeing them as lurid, sleazy and evil. What follows is a content analysis of a recent news story that reveals underlying attitudes of popular media towards transgender people.
The Chandini Case
On Dec. 1, 2002, Chandini, a hijra, died of severe burns in her home in Kammanahalli, Bangalore. She had been married to Jnanaprakash, a painter, who claims that he was unaware of Chandini's sexual orientation till the day before her death; his reaction of shock and outrage as well as his threat to expose her to his parents drove her to commit suicide. But many hijras who know Chandini discount the suicide story completely and allege that Jnanaprakash, who met Chandini in a hamam, had a long-standing relationship with her. In fact, Sangama has a videotape of a hijra function showing Jnanaprakash with Chandini and many other hijras. These hijras accused Jnanaprakash of murdering Chandini for her money and jewellery. Along with members of the collective Vividha, they staged a demonstration on Dec. 7, 2002, and demanded that Chandini's death should be treated as a murder case and an impartial probe should be conducted. But the police have turned down these demands and have stuck to their version of the death as suicide.
On December 4, 2002, major English and Kannada newspapers reported the sensational news of Chandini's death as a suicide, basing their report, as usual, entirely on the police version. It was only later that the hijras' allegation that her death was in fact a murder was published in the newspapers as part of the coverage of the hijra rally on December 8, 2002. Two popular Kannada weeklies, Police News and Lankesh Patrike, published two long exposés, one sleazier than the other. The story in Police News (22.12.02) starts off as an exciting heterosexual romantic tryst between two strangers that turns into a sordid nightmare of an unsuspecting young man trapped into marriage by a wily hijra whose sexual identity is revealed only after the marriage. Here as elsewhere in society Chandini¹s sexual and cross-gender identity is seen not as choice but as a deception, a trick to lure innocent men with. Inverting the process of becoming a hijra (a biological male taking on the gender role of the female), the story portrays Chandini as an attractive young woman till her dark secret is revealed and is represented by the writer thereafter as a male imposter -"Chandini alias Nazir". Suicide by Chandini is seen as the only possible way out of an impossible marriage.
This is reinforced by a gruesome photograph of Chandini¹s charred body. This melodrama of intrigue, exposure and catastrophe is presented entirely from the husband's point of view as the narrative focuses on Jnanaprakash¹s frustrations, deflecting attention from the traumatic death by burning of Chandini. The main article underwrites the police version of the death as a suicide, while the hijras' allegation that the death was not a suicide but a murder is reported briefly under a separate box item; it is suggested that the hijras are trying to put undue pressure on the police to launch further investigations.
The article in Lankesh Patrike by R. Somnath (18.12.2002) repeats many of the characterizations of the Chandini case in Police News. Thus it supports the police version of the death as suicide and sees the hijras' demand for an impartial probe not as an expression of protest but as unwarranted intimidation, preventing the police from doing their job. Again, the hijra community is represented as trapping males into marriage as well as others who are unsure of their gender orientation into undergoing sex change operations. But the Lankesh Patrike article goes much further and sets up the hijras as a race apart, freaks of the underworld, half-man half-woman, almost devilish in their customs and practices. (The Kannada word "anthara pishachi" signifies a ghost, animal or man, in anguish for want of habitation, condemned to eternal wandering, like a wandering Jew). Sangama wrote a spirited rejoinder to this article pointing out that the article's lurid stigmatization throws light not so much on transgenders but on the writer's own homophobia and transphobia, his confusion and ignorance about transgender identity (referring to them alternately in the masculine and feminine genders), and a rigid sexual morality.
As in much regional media, the article freely uses a variety of derogatory epithets to describe sexuality minorities such as khoja, chakka, gandu (homosexual), and napumsaka (eunuch), and so on. The commonly used word "eunuch" merits special mention here. It is based on an antiquated and patriarchal notion of gender and sexual identity that stems entirely from masculinity and sexual potency as the norm. Given such a notion, the sex reassignment surgery undergone by hijras to embrace a female identity appears as grotesque emasculation. Again, the writer describes with fascinated revulsion many marriages in which the man lives off the earnings of his hijra partner as if such sexual exploitation is peculiar to the hijra community and not representative of many heterosexual marriages as well. Basically, the article betrays the writer's inability to accept the complex reality of relationships and identities among sexuality minorities that do not conform to the regime of heterosexist and patriarchal morality. It is ironical that such a vicious article which depends on the police version should be published in a supposedly progressive and anti-establishment publication like Lankesh Patrike, one of the first Kannada publications to give sympathetic coverage to the emergence of sexuality minorities in Bangalore. It seems that when it comes to sexual minorities, the media, despite repeated exposure to this issue and its own emerging predilections, remains in the grip of gender stereotypes and the heterosexist ideology.
Kothi and Hijra Sex Workers' Organizing in Bangalore
As a result of interventions by a number of queer rights groups, the kothi and hijra community has been spurred into mobilizing against discrimination by both the state and society. In this section, we will look at a number of strategies employed by hijra and kothi sex workers in Bangalore to organize themselves.
1.Crisis intervention in cases of violence
This might be one of the most powerful strategies, which has been employed in Bangalore towards building a sense of community.
The first PUCL report indicates that the police capitalize on the fears of the queer community of being outed as well as the deeper societal homophobia in order to blatantly subject queer people to all forms of harassment and violence, knowing fully well that the victims will never challenge them. (However police harassment tends to impact English-speaking queers less and low-income queers more.) In such contexts, interventions can be made at various levels. The experience of the Bangalore-based group Sangama is instructive in using a model of crisis intervention based on community mobilization.
The first strategy of Sangama has been to build a strong community network. This has primarily taken the form of establishing links with the community so that the violations of basic rights are reported. The first initiative in this regard was the formation of the "Coalition for Sexuality Minority Rights" (CSMR), which received its first report of the illegal detention of a kothi only after an intensive distribution of over 1000 pamphlets in cruising areas about the rights of sexuality minorities along with contact numbers in case of police harassment. This case was taken up as a campaign issue. These initial steps have built up in the community a sense of confidence that situations of violence and harassment will be responded to effectively.
The second strategy of Sangama has involved following up on the community-based networking by intervening actively when members of the queer community come to Sangama for legal help. Whenever the organization found out about instances of violence and abuse, the matter was taken up in court. This intervention on a case-by-case basis had a positive impact in instilling confidence that crisis situations would be responded to. For example, in one case (which is still in court), the police violence which resulted in serious injuries was brought to the notice of the magistrate who asked the concerned police station to take action against the concerned constable. According to the advocate B. T. Venkatesh, who has been representing the hijra and kothi sex workers, this case has had a positive impact on the treatment of hijras and kothis by the Cubbon Park police. Today the police know that there is no impunity for police violence inflicted against hijras and kothis as such violence would be responded to at the level of both legal and collective intervention.
Even bigger challenges have been faced with determination. One such situation arose when the flat-owners' association of the building in which Sangama is housed objected to hijras visiting the Sangama premises. When the police at the instance of this association refused to allow hijras to use the Sangama premises, letters were written to the Police Comissioner, the Chief Minister, NHRC, IGLHRC etc with the objective of pressurizing the police to cease their illegal action. The Chief Minister responded by noting that he was having the matter investigated, assuring Sangama that police excesses will be checked. A letter by the NHRC to the Commercial Street police station had the effect of Sangama getting an assurance from the police that they would protect the rights of all residents in that building, including employees and visitors to Sangama. The police were not only forced to back down but also to ensure the protection of the right of hijras to freedom of movement.
However crisis intervention has to be sustained, and police violence tends to intensify the moment pressure is eased. In March 2002, there were a spate of incidents of police assaults on the street-based kothi and hijra sex workers. On 26 March 2002, a kothi sex worker, who is also physically disabled, was brutally attacked by the police near the Bangalore bus station. On 27 March 2002, the Cubbon Park police arrested a kothi sex worker, who is also a peer educator in an NGO working among MSMs (men having sex with men) on HIV/AIDS issues, on a false charge of theft. She was brutally abused in police custody. Sangama got her out on bail on 30 March when she was produced in the court. On 26 and 27 March the Cubbon Park police arrested five kothi sex workers on false charges of extortion. They were severely verbally/physically/sexually abused in custody. Sangama got them out on bail on March 30. To complement the legal interventions, Sangama decided that the scale and systematic nature of the violence against kothis and hijras in Bangalore needed to be documented.
In this regard, the Sunday group requested Sangama to initiate a fact-finding team with representatives from PUCL-K, PDF, ALF, DISC, Vimochana and Sangama. This provided a space for them to share their experiences and also to launch a public campaign against police atrocities. A vigorous campaign was launched at many levels, including press conferences, other protest rallies, representations to police officials, the Chief Minister and the NHRC, and e-mail campaigns. This campaign was covered by the media, especially in the Kannada press, in a very positive and supportive manner.
All of this increased yet further the confidence levels of hijras, kothis, and transgender sex workers who despite continuing police violence resisted it actively by invoking their rights and claiming the support of Sangama. The result was that there was a drastic reduction of police atrocities to the extent that in the last several months, there have been hardly any cases of police abuse of sexuality minorities in police stations or outside in Bangalore. In the meanwhile, the Sunday group transformed itself into Vividha, an autonomous collective of sexuality minorities (comprising mainly hijras and kothis), one of whose activities was the highly successful protest demonstration against Chandini¹s death on 9.12.02. It was the first time that more than 150 queers came out publicly on the streets of Bangalore. During the rally, Vividha produced a charter of demands including repealing Section 377 and recognition of hijras as women with equal opportunities and providing employment, housing, and rail travel concessions to them.
Two broad conclusions can be drawn from media¹s coverage of hijras, transgenders and male sex workers:
Queer rights groups need to be pro-active in their approach to the media. Politicisation is essential in order to claim emerging spaces in Indian society. Politicisation gives visibility, which is a step towards acceptance.
VII Recommendations and Suggestions to protect the rights of hijras and kothis
What became apparent in the course of our study is that discrimination against hijras and kothis is embedded in both state and civil society. The violence that this community faces is not only due to the state but also has deep societal roots. As has been argued in the course of the Report, wider change is premised on changing existing social relations. Any proposal which tries to ensure that the dignity and selfhood of kothis and hijras is respect has to deal with a complex reality in which class, gender and sexuality play a crucial role.
Apart from shifts in class relations, change would also crucially hinge upon overturning the existing regime of both gender and sexuality that enforces its own hierarchies, (e.g. heterosexuality over homosexuality), exclusions (e.g. hijras as the excluded category) and oppressions. While keeping in mind this wider context, a human rights approach has to deal with the various institutional contexts and think through ways in which change can be brought about. In this context the following proposals are made. These recommendations are also based on the demands made by the hijra kothi community in meetings held with them. Some of the demands made by them require us to reorient our very imagination to conceptualize the nature of violation suffered by them. In this context the demand for recognition of the discrimination suffered by them as a form of untouchability ( in terms of access to public spaces, employment, as well as the forms of violence they suffer) needs to be taken seriously.

Legal Measures

1. Every person must have the right to decide their gender expression and identity, including transsexuals, transgenders, transvestites and hijras. They should also have the right to freely express their gender identity. This includes the demand for hijras to be considered female as well as a third sex.
2. Comprehensive civil rights legislation should be enacted to offer hijras and kothis the same protection and rights now guaranteed to others on the basis of sex, caste, creed and colour. The Constitution should be amended to include sexual orientation/gender identity as a ground of non-discrimination.
3. There should be a special legal protection against this form of discrimination inflicted by both state and civil society which is very akin to the offence of practicing untouchability.
4. Same-sex marriages should be recognized as legal and valid; all legal benefits, including property rights that accrue to heterosexual married people should be made available to same-sex unions.
5. The Immoral Trafficking in Persons Act, 1956 should be repealed. Sex work should be decriminalized, and legal and other kinds of discrimination against kothis and hijras should stop.
6. Section 377 of the IPC and other discriminatory legislations that single out same-sexual acts between consenting adults should be repealed.
7. Section 375 of the IPC should be amended to punish all kinds of sexual violence, including sexual abuse of children. A comprehensive sexual assault law should be enacted applying to all persons irrespective of their sexual orientation and marital status.
8. Civil rights under law such as the right to get a passport, ration card, make a will, inherit property and adopt children. must be available to all regardless of change in gender/sex identities.

Police Reforms

1. The police administration should appoint a standing committee comprising Station House Officers and human rights and social activists to promptly investigate reports of gross abuses by the police against kothis and hijras in public areas and police stations, and the guilty policeman immediately punished.
2. The police administration should adopt transparency in their dealings with hijras and kothis; make available all information relating to procedures and penalties used in detaining kothis and hijras in public places.
3. Protection and safety should be ensured for hijras and kothis to prevent rape in police custody and in jail. Hijras should not be sent into male cells with other men in order to prevent harassment, abuse and rape.
4. The police at all levels should undergo sensitization workshops by human rights groups/queer groups in order to break down their social prejudices and to train them to accord hijras and kothis the same courteous and humane treatment as they should towards the general public.
Interventions by Civil Society
1. Human rights and social action organizations should take up the issues of hijras and kothis as a part of their mandate for social change. Socialist and Marxist organizations, Gandhian organizations, environmental organizations, dalit organizations and women¹s organizations, among others, which have played a key role in initiating social change, should integrate the concerns of hijras and kothis as part of their mandate in sites such as the family, religion and the media which foster extreme forms of intolerance to gender non-conformity.
2. A comprehensive sex-education program should be included as part of the school curricula that alters the heterosexist bias in education and provides judgement-free information and fosters a liberal outlook with regard to matters of sexuality, including orientation, identity and behaviour of all sexualities.
3. The Press Council of India and other watchdog institutions of various popular media (including film, video and TV) should issue guidelines to ensure sensitive and respectful treatment of these issues.
This is a summary of the complete report which has been recently published in English and Kannada. We would welcome any comments and suggestions on this report.
Do get in touch with Ramdas Rao ( or Arvind Narrain ( about feedback.
For obtaining copies of the complete report, please contact:
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Ramdas Rao


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