After years of struggle, the marginalized transgender community in Kashmir, gets a voice

A new kind of activism is taking shape in Kashmir. After seven decades of conflict and unrest, people in Kashmir have joined hands to start a sensitisation program, for the marginalised transgender community in the valley.

The initiative, believed as first-of-its kind in the trouble-torn region, has received many accolades and global attention from several quarters.
Last week, the initiative was formally launched at an event attended by students, journalists and civil society members. People from transgender community participated in the event and narrated their ordeal and emotional anecdotes before a huge audience.
One of the transgender Rashid aka Reshma said that she faced a lot of ridicule and harassment within family and outside when she was young.
"My brothers and uncles would beat me and lock me for weeks. They also forced me to behave in a masculine way. But, when they failed in their efforts they kept me confined for many years," she narrates.
She says most of her siblings boycotted her and left her to fend for herself. However, after many years of hardships she learned tailoring to survive.
Reshma is living with her mother, the widow and children of her brother who died in an accident 16 years ago. However, she ensured her brother's children receive proper guidance and education as she single-handedly manages the expenses of the family, working as a tailor in winters and by singing and dancing in summers.
The event was organized by Kashmir Women's Collective (KWC), a group working for gender sensitisation in Jammu & Kashmir. At the event, a book was also released titled 'Hijras of Kashmir—a marginalised form of Personhood' highlighting socio-economic conditions of transgender community.
The book is written by the LGBT activist and Kashmir-based scholar, Aijaz Ahmad Bund narrating the personal stories and anecdotes from the lives of the community members.
"The transgender community faces continuous social boycott at every level, starting from their own families. Non seriousness of government and civil society of Kashmir also leaves them in distressing situation," Aijaz Ahmad Bund told Democracy News Live.
"The aim of writing the book was to bring out genuine facts about the 'marginalised community' without getting into stereotypes and other controversies surrounding LGBTs across the globe," he says.
According to the author, he has faced discrimination and social stigma since he started the campaign for the rights of transgender community.
"I have learnt to live with all the negative reactions from different people because I feel I am the support to the neglected and ridiculed community," he says.
The scholar said there was no record of their existence in the society before his book as no scholar has ever worked on the plight of transgenders.
However, Bund says that his seven-years of struggle has paid-off. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has taken cognisance of his Public Interest Litigation seeking court's intervention into the plight of transgender community. The litigation also seeks for the social, political and economic inclusion of transgender community in the society and reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.
On August 11, a division bench of the High Court directed the Government to respond to the PIL seeking the protection of rights of transgender people.
Bund says he is not alone in this fight for justice because many people including his friends joined him.
"My two friends Farah Ashraf and Enus Shafi Khan, who are university scholars, are standing with me fighting with me," he says.
"After seven years of struggle and fight for transgender community in different departments and courts, I finally got a positive signal from the J&K High Court which has directed the government to file their response," he said.
Earlier, Bund had to withdraw his case from State Human Rights Commission due to lack of jurisdiction of the Commission.
The author, who has done PhD in social work from the University of Kashmir, has been working since 2013 for the rights of the transgender community in Kashmir valley.
Bund says the transgender people in Kashmir face many hardships as they are being seen as 'mad' and 'abnormal' people despite their rights mentioned in the Holy Quran.
"Some sections of the society neglect the transgender which is unfortunate. So we need to make them aware about their rights in the light of Holy Scriptures," he says.
A female research scholar, Ifra says, "It is mentioned that the community was having rights in Mughal court and ancient books such as Vedas".
"It's quite encouraging and inspiring that such a book has come to fore in Kashmir which talks about the economic status and the challenges faced by the transgender persons in Kashmir," she says while reviewing the book.
Another scholar and president of Kashmir Women's Collective expressed a need to make people aware about the transgender community.
"We are doing our best for them for last couple of years. However, there is lot to be done and we need support from students and civil society members," she says.

Manzoor ul Hassan

Manzoor ul Hassan

Multimedia journalist and writer based in Jammu and Kashmir. His writings on healthcare, politics and lifestyle were published in J&K's leading newspapers including Rising Kashmir, Greater Kashmir, and Kashmir Reader. He is also contributing to ARD (German TV) as a freelance producer since 2013. Previously, he has worked with National and Foreign Broadcast like ORF Austria, BBC, and NDTV.

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