God’s Own Country, Kerala has always been a trendsetter among all the Indian states, since its achievements in the socio-political front have created a buzz among the people every now and then. The Indian state of Kerala has a unique quality that the other states in the nation are still struggling to achieve – multiculturalism. With the most varied composition of castes and religions in the state, Kerala seemed to have achieved a lot more than the whole world put together. And considerably, the most intriguing aspect of their policies is to elevate the status of the transgender community in the state.
Unfortunately, gender and sex are still a huge taboo in the country. Even after 72 years of independence, people cannot easily comprehend with the idea of the third gender. And not just in India, but it is all over the world where transgenders are still struggling to peacefully maintain their identity among the ‘other’ people. But in a surprising turn of events, Kerala government has made some path-breaking policies in the state that have made the lives of the transgender community a lot easier.
1. First state to have a transgender policy 2015
With the first of its kind Transgender Policy of the State, the state began a revolution to end the social stigma towards the sexual minority group. The policy covers all the categories of the transgender including the female to male, male to female and the intersex-people. While emphasizing on the rights of the minority group such that they self-identify themselves in different sexes, the state assured freedom and care to the third gender.
2. First beauty pageant for transgender women
Dhwayah Arts and Cultural Society organized the first ever beauty pageant for trans-gender women in Kerala made history in the country. With the objective to emphasize on the significance of the inclusion go the third gender in the society, the beauty pageant crowned its first trans-beauty queen to Shyama Sanju. According to media reports, the society held its second beauty pageant for trans-women recently.
3. Free sex change operation
Kerala became the newest state to offer free sex change operations to its transgender community. While the Supreme Court is still debating over the criminalization of Section 377, Kerala followed a progressive policy and changed the history by offering free sexual reassignment surgeries to the transgender community in the government hospitals. Kerala decision is an empowering one that rest of the states should definitely follow.
4. First ever transgender sports meet
Its continuous efforts in giving recognition to the third gender are working in the betterment of the society. The state held first of its sort sports meet for transgenders in the country and it was a mega event. With more than 100 athletes from 14 districts, belonging to the third sex participating in the event, the crowd was appreciating the efforts of the participants in all form.
5. Justice Board for transgenders
Kerala set up a transgender justice board to deal with the problems and complaints of the third sex community. A separate column called ‘intersex’ was also introduced in the birth and death registration forms in the state. The justice board aims to ensure equality and justice for the members of the community and providing free legal aid to the put a check on discrimination and violence against the community.
6. First magazine cover to feature trans-woman
The state’s popular magazine Vanitha set records, by featuring a transgender woman on the cover of its June 2016 issue. The issue featured the model Deepthi on the front cover. Deepthi was born as Shinoj, a boy and the magazine covered a detailed interview of her transformation and the sufferings she had to face as a queer. With the cover feature of someone from the third sex, Vanitha magazine became a trend-setter in acknowledging the identity of the third gender in public life.
7. Employment of transgender in Kochi Metro
Another first of its kind, the metro in Kochi, Kerala employed 23 transgenders in order to push forward the welfare policies for the neglected community. This was the first time when a government-run organization provided bulk employment to the members of third gender community in the country. While educating them about the key posts, the transgenders will make a livelihood for them and their families in a more recognized and respectable manner.
8. G-taxi for transgenders
While the third gender is still trying to find a place in the mainstream society, Kerala became the first state to launch a taxi service that will be owned and operated by the transgenders only. With the objective to provide better means of livelihood to the minority group, Gender Taxi or G-Taxi was launched by the State Government. With a view of putting a stop on the social stigma in the country and ensuring a non-discriminatory treatment in the society, Kerala provided the service of G-taxi for the transgenders.
9. Pension plan for transgenders
The Kerala government announced a pension scheme for the people above the age of 60-year-old of the third gender in the state and provided a huge relief to the transgender community. In the continuation of the policy for transgenders, the Left Democratic Front regime under State Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Issac granted the allotment of pensions of those transgenders who are above the age of 60.
10. Schools for transgenders in Kochi
Kerala opened a residential school for the transgender students in order to promote education among the third gender community. While 80 percent of the transgender students quit school due to various reasons, Kerala is pushing the importance of education in their lives. They can take exams in the school under the National Open School System. Moreover, the state government also introduced a special literacy program providing free education schemes to the transgender community.
Well, there is no doubt that the other Indian states have a lot to learn from Kerala about the transgender community.