Fighting for the rights of transgender
Hijra, eunuch, third gender, whatever you call them, they are a marginalized part of our society. They are excluded from the mainstream social, cultural, religious, professional, and political life. Having no family and conjugal life or any social status, they are largely deprived of their fundamental rights and needs. They are usually deprived of the right of inheritance. As a result, they are to suffer severe financial hardship when they leave their paternal houses and go out for survival.
It is alleged that, they face difficulties in renting a house in a city. The house owners usually express their unwillingness to rent out a house or flat to them because they think their presence may cause discomfort for other tenants. Even they are often denied access to physicians because of being different. Isolated from society, deprived of their basic rights, and forced to lead a life devoid of self-respect, many of them, reportedly, have taken up some other means to earn their living. As a result, their vulnerabilities, dissatisfactions, and socio-political uncertainties remain in touch, and their socio-economic conditions, social networks and mobility produce discriminations which lead them to have low self-esteem, low income and poor social dignity.
For example, as a citizen of Bangladesh, although it is formally stated that every transgender Hijra has the right to work or right to get the equal opportunity of work in every place of the state, in reality transgender Hijra have been denied this fundamental right for a long time. As a consequence, they are unemployed and under-employment. However, in many countries with specific social and cultural context, discrimination still takes place in general, and in accessing work.
Hijras are socially excluded, living on the fringes of society, harassed by the protectors and abused by the public. Though most of them are involved in singing and dancing at weddings or childbirth as a part of their traditional culture few of them are in begging and the sex trade. Violence against them, especially Hijra sex workers, is often brutal and occurs in public spaces and their homes. They face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law, and any bureaucracy that is unable to place them into male or female gender categories.
Bangladesh cabinet passed a law which declared the transsexual people a separate gender. They will be given similar rights as any other man or woman residing in the country, in terms of education, job facilities, housing and health. They already have voting rights and now they can get passports as well. While it is common in Bangladesh to hear people complain about the rough behaviour of the Hijras and their constant begging, do we at all take notice of the hardships they go through in their lifetime?
Can we begin to understand what life must be like for them? If not properly educated, how can we expect them to earn a decent income? Have we ever offered them jobs or made any other efforts to help them? This group is one that is rejected firstly by their parents who gave birth to them, and then by the entire society. Consequently, they have no one other than those like them to rely on.
In the city areas they are often seen begging from a bus, train passengers, and passing shoppers, at times they almost snatched from many, picking up brawls. Moreover, it has been alleged that a considerable number of them are now involved in the sex trade. In the past, they earned their living by singing and dancing at wedding ceremonies and other social celebrations. There was a time, they had a semi-sacred status in society and they were even invited to bless married couples or newborn babies. But with the passage of time and change of social and cultural context, the majority of them are to bow to this inauspicious profession.
A few places, they are seen blackmailing or even keeping children hostage for money. They have become ruthless and barbaric for meeting their needs. Though this is a rare instance if they are involved in a large scale in different industries they can be empowered and they could be a hand of production. With our resources, they can contribute to the national economy. From creating safe learning spaces so every third gender person can complete their studies; making skills training can make them more inclusive, they can develop skills for decent jobs; and to raising awareness, to encourage understanding and acceptance, everyone has a role in making sure that no one is left behind.
Employment is a right of every citizen of the people's republic of Bangladesh who is capable of working according to his or her abilities. The main purpose is to look into the major challenges of right to employment which is faced by Transgender people through the existing policy in the formal sector of Bangladesh. The concerned authority has to find out the existing policy gap, identify the impacts of those policies in the formal sector, and explore the reasons for the failure of transgender people to access employment.
Without proper education and employment, these people will have no means to an end. They will be forced to do extortion business, ironically which has reached the extreme level especially in the capital and other big cities in absence of any tangible preventive measures making them unaware of what to do in an awkward situation. At those instances, common citizens seem to feel bewildered.
The concerned authority on various occasions earlier took various measures to engage them in works to restrain them from getting involved in such deadly crimes. But, all the initiatives seem to go in vain and the Hijras are now coming up with new styles to make people suffer. Though the Bangladesh government has recognized the transgender community as the Third Gender, they have to face different disparities in getting economic and social benefits in the country. The source of income is basically begging and prostitution.
The lack of social acceptance, lack of access to education and their reluctance to get an appointment in a formal job and many other causes are forcing the transgender people to choose unaccepted work as a profession. But a number of them are also now doing jobs in NGOs. It is noted that getting a job in Bangladesh is too much difficult for every man and woman job seeker. In this satiation, Hijras, who are thought as socially stigmatized, have limited scope to be qualified enough to get a job.
The government has already done a lot of things for this group. The Hijra had been recognized officially as a third gender. A lot of initiative has been taken for their improvement like a training program, old age salary, education scholarship, etc. As an educated advanced society, if we want to flourish, there is only one way to include the entire third gender group into the mainstream activities by making them educated and skilled mass.
Dr Zubair Khaled Huq is a specialist
on Family Medicine, Gerontology,
and Public Health