On its second anniversary, the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala has come up with a project which, it claims, will be a comprehensive one for bringing transgender persons into mainstream society.
But the transgender community is apprehensive about how effectively the project – named Mazhavillu- will be implemented while many of the promises given by the government have still not been fulfilled.
Mazhavillu promises a helpline, a crisis management center and transgender cell. The project has been envisioned by the Social Justice Department and was launched by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday evening.
The cell is for the coordination of existing projects and for creating innovative policies for the transgender community.
The round-the-clock helpline is to stop the atrocities against transgender people and for taking legal action against perpetrators.
Sexual and Gender Minority Federation State President Sreekutty tells TNM that one has to wait and see how the promises made through the project will be kept. She flays the government for not even completing the distribution of identity cards for transgender persons. For the community, an identity card is of utmost importance as incidents when their gender is questioned are frequently reported.
“It has been a year since the government inaugurated the process to distribute identity cards to transgender persons. At the inaugural function, cards were distributed to 31 persons. After that, it was not followed up,” says Sreekutty.
“Also, about the shelter homes for transgender persons, the government spoke earlier about making facilities for it. The only existing thing is the transgender cell. Forming a crisis management helpline is a big challenge. It has to be seen how all this will be implemented and how practical all of it is,” Sreekutty says.
Sisily George, member of Transgender Justice Board Kozhikode district, said that providing shelter for transgender persons is the primary concern to be addressed. There are nearly 25,000 transgender persons in the state and the majority is still struggling to find spaces in which to live. The government has initiated steps to accommodate them at shelter homes.
In the first phase, the government has decided to set up shelter homes in six districts - Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Thrissur and Palakkad. At each shelter home, 25 transgender persons will be accommodated. However, the houses to be converted to shelter homes are yet to be found.
“Still, the stigma of giving transgender persons a house exists in society, though there has been improvement in the mindset of the people. After a search for months, I have found a place in Kozhikode for the shelter home. Providing accommodation for all transgender persons who have difficulty in getting houses or are excluded from their families is a long process” Sisily says. Sisily is also the president of Punrajani, a cultural platform for transgender persons in Kozhikode.
However, Sisily is optimistic about Mazhavillu.
“It is another beginning, right? Let us see how things work out,” she says.