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Samar commented on Shanakht: Dignity for All

Thanks much for your message. I mentioned in my application as well that the timing seems to be right to do this. It is already beyond late, but the newscaster news was indeed very hopeful.

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Samar commented on Shanakht: Dignity for All

Hi there, what a great question. I am still trying to understand how they have ended up becoming so marginalized. As you may be aware, in the Mughal era, the transgenders (khwaja sara) or eunuchs enjoyed a very unique position. They were responsible for managing the women's quarters (harems), and provided the king security and safety inside it since royal bodyguards were not allowed inside. However, under the British rule, state level marginalization of the transgender community took place. Extracting from a paper I was reading available at http://www.thaap.pk/assets/qaisar-abbas-and-ghias.pdf: "Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a prominent transgender activist and the first transgendered person to represent the Asia Pacific region at the UN in 2008 states, “The community has been marginalized by the British; we’ve had 250 years of complete non-existence”. She goes on to state that “Before the Britishers came, we were at least treated with dignity and respect in society and we were discriminated against Tribes Act”. Laxmi is referring here to the Criminals Tribes Act of 1871 which categorized the Khawaja Sara (transgender) community with the “habitually criminal” groups such as thugs and additionally the British criminalized revelation of genitals publically (Ibid). This marginalization took another turn when over the suspicion of kidnapping or castrating children, Hijras were marked as “dangerous outlaws” in the Criminal Tribes Act in 1871 (Hahm 2010: 13-4). Even public appearances in female clothing or the possibility of being seen in a woman’s dress from a public place and acts of their public singing, dancing and exhibition were liable to arrest and imprisonment for two years or fine or both (Ibid; Pamment 2010:35). They were not allowed to share gifts, making testaments or adopting a child and Chelas (Jaffrey 1998: 231-3, Reddy 2005:26-7 cited in Hahm 2010). The transfer of land from Guru to Chela was not allowed. Provision of food and other things by households to them was also banned in certain areas (Nanda 1999:50-1). The criminalization of Hijras and the removal of benefits and squeezing of cultural performance space at the hands of British effects the present day marginalization of this community. Hijras were deprived legislatively from the lands which they did not inherit through blood relations (Reddy 2005:27 cited in Hahm 2010:13-4). Furthermore, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, criminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature”, that is, any form of homosexual activity. Once formalized and made into laws, there came a perpetual decline in the Khawaja Sara communities’ existence within the public domain leading towards being marginalized... " Coming to your question about their treatment in present day Pakistan, it is still appalling and a majority of them are restricted to begging, dancing, prostitution since they are uneducated and unaccepted. In certain parts of Pakistan, they are beaten or killed even. However, the good news is that at the state level, their ID cards are being made now and a few organizations are trying to provide employment to them and educate them. Furthermore, people are also becoming more accepting of transgenders, though we do find some who will appreciate the support someone else is providing to them, but will not want to have them as their domestic help for instance. We have also come to know about more educated transgender persons though a deep conversation with any one of them is pending. For us, we hope to contribute to this change by preparing the community for alternate, respectable, dignified careers while conducting advocacy campaigns and presenting role models from within the community. Some ways to measure our success include: number of transgender persons trained and employed; number of transgender-owned businesses set up & supported, number of transgender employed through these businesses; improvement in health and disease reduction.

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Samar commented on Mumbai's Free Learning Centers Bridge the Gap

Hi Anubha Sharma I am seriously impressed by your work! I love the fact that you are using existing resources to do this amazing work. This is something I have often thought could work. My idea was to use existing private and public school infrastructures, where classes only run between 8 am to 2 pm typically and the rest of the time, the schools are empty. Also, in the summer time, the buildings are not being utilized at all. The idea was to involve children who are learning at school who would teach out of school children, under the supervision of teachers, who could be incentivized to teach. However, utilizing resources such as retired army officers and mothers is something I had not thought of. Thank you for sharing.