Why Bihar govt cannot offer trans people jobs simply to avert sexual abuse of women at shelter homes

DailyBiteJul 18, 2018 | 20:01

Why Bihar govt cannot offer trans people jobs simply to avert sexual abuse of women at shelter homes

India is on the cusp of a gender revolution. Or, so it seems with all the big noises about sexual identity and inclusion.

Indians, like most others across the world, have almost earned the "woke badge" with our "nuanced", contextual language and social posturing. 

There have been some promising changes as well. From a nation where gender discussions were mostly limited to whether men and women are equal to a country that officially recognised a “third gender”, we have indeed come a long way. Yes, considering the fact that until the law was passed in 2014, transgender people had to register themselves in official documents as either male or female.


The monsoon session of Parliament, which began today (July 18), will also discuss the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, notwithstanding its massively diluted provisions.

On the cusp of a gender revolution? (Credit: Reuters photo)

Last week, as the Supreme Court began hearing a batch of petitions challenging Section 377 of the IPC, many described it as "India on the brink of the greatest breakthrough for LGBTQ+ rights since Independence".

In July last year, India appointed its first transgender judge Joyita Mandal in a Lok Adalat in West Bengal. Soon after, Maharashtra's Vidya Kamble became the second judge to be appointed in a Lok Adalat in Nagpur. Recently, Assam followed suit and welcomed Swati Bidhan Baruah as a judge in a Lok Adalat in Guwahati.

These are giant strides. So, more or less, we have woken up to the idea, but what lies ahead? It's not smooth sailing.

Sample this: The Bihar government has decided to employ transgenders as security guards. This piece of news should ideally have been welcomed for the "effort" to integrate trans people into the mainstream. But sadly, that's not the case.

The decision was taken following complaints of sexual exploitation of women at short stay homes (shelters for women and girls).


According to this news report, the state social welfare department asked the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to carry out a social audit of such shelters.

The TISS, in its report submitted in May, talked about complaints of sexual exploitation in shelters and corrective measures that need to be taken. On the basis of the team’s findings, the social welfare department apparently filed a case in Muzaffarpur — where 10 people, including staff members, were arrested in June on charges of sexually exploiting girls at a short stay home — and asked officials to conduct periodic social audits of these shelters.

Earlier this month, two persons, including the security guard of a similar shelter in Chhapra, were arrested after a 23-year-old mentally challenged woman was found to be pregnant.

"The Chhapra case came to light as part of our follow-up measures after the TISS report,” Atul Prasad, principal secretary, social welfare department, was quoted by The Indian Express.

Prasad went on to say that the department had been studying the proposal to employ transgenders as security guards at short stay homes for a while. He reportedly said that transgenders will be given priority for employment as security guards at short stay homes. This move will help avert sexual exploitation, and also offer employability to transgenders and give them social parity.


Pride is more than just a parade. (Credit: PTI file)

And it is this kind of "employability" that lies in the heart of the debate over inclusion of trans persons into the mainstream.

Firstly, what makes anybody think that the presence of trans security guards will avert sexual exploitation?

Are women only sexually assaulted by men? It's true that in most cases the perpetrators are men, but it's not like men are biologically inclined to sexual violence. In fact, sexual crime is not about sex or lust. It's about power and control that the perpetrators want over their victims. And that is why people of all genders can be survivors or perpetrators.

Women can be sexually exploited by people of any gender identity, including women. But then, rape and other forms of sexual violence are often understood and defined as a crime committed only by men against women. That is why the plight of men who have survived sexual violence goes completely unnoticed. The misapprehension that sexual crimes are committed only by men is a result of inaccurate understandings of gender. The roots of sexual violence do not lie in biology, and that is why biological difference won't make any difference in either averting or increasing such crimes.

The assumption that trans people can't violate women/girls is as hazardous as the dangers and discrimination that trans people themselves face.  

The social welfare department, despite its well-meaning initiative, has reinforced another sexist stereotype that trans people are only fit for lower-rung jobs, and not blue-collar positions, let alone white-collar jobs (A transwoman from Tamil Nadu recently sought mercy killing after Air India allegedly denied her a job as a cabin crew member.)

In both the Chhapra and Muzaffarpur cases, the FIRs named security guards of the short stay homes, a district child welfare committee member and a social welfare department official.

So, does that mean all officials in such homes should be replaced by trans people? Why just the guards? 

It is often because of such half-hearted understandings about gender identities that trans people in India face such harsh treatment.

Government agencies must understand that they are not doing a favour to trans people by giving them equal rights and social acceptance. That's their right.

Last updated: July 18, 2018 | 20:01
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