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Chandigarh to have a helpline to address all grievances of transgender persons’

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | February 06, 2023 05:46 PM

CHANDIGARH : The Chandigarh Pride Week, ‘Garvotsav 2023’, started with a panel discussion on ‘Queer Rights and Law’ at the Government College of Commerce and Business Administration (GCCBA), Sector 50, here today.

Organised in collaboration with the Gender Sensitisation Society, Jagriti, of GCCBA, the panel discussion covered the history of queer rights movement in India, the road ahead and the personal experiences of people from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Palika Arora, director, Social Welfare, Women, and Child Development in Chandigarh and member of the Transgender Welfare Board in Chandigarh, said, “We have created a transgender welfare cell and are going to have a helpline number to address all grievances of transgender persons. The board is working towards making Chandigarh a safe city for transgender persons. We help them get their transgender identity cards because that makes them eligible for many education and social welfare schemes.”

Dhananjay Chauhan, president of Saksham Prakriti Welfare Society, said the Constitution of India has given equal rights to all citizens of India but these rights need to be protected by the society. “We, the queer community, should have the courage to be publicly out which will lead to more rights and policies in our favour, ” she added.

Aafreen Chaudhary, a lawyer and member of Queering in Chandigarh group, one of the co-organisers of the Pride week, said, “When Constitutional morality locks horns with social and public morality, it is the Constitution and its ideals of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity that should always prevail.”

Maninderjit Singh, a legal advisor with the non-profit Saksham Prakriti Welfare Society, shared his experience of fighting cases related to the rights of transgender persons. “Many states in India, including Punjab and Haryana don’t have a transgender welfare board which is mandated under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act. The board is meant to protect the rights and interests of transgender persons and facilitate their access to schemes and welfare measures framed by the government, ” he said. “We also need to work towards marriage equality, adoption rights and equal property rights for the community.”

Chaaya Thakur, a transwoman staying in a slum area of SAS Nagar, talked about facing hardships in accessing safe housing. “Most landlords and neighbours don’t want us around so we have to stay outside the developed city areas. There too, we face harassment and surveillance. To avoid the constant shifting of houses because of transphobia among people, I bought a small room by taking an informal loan. But this came at a high-interest rate because banks also don’t want to entertain us, ” she said.

Shivaay Thakur, a transman, narrated his traumatic experience of being bullied in school. “Most people are not aware of gender dysphoria and transition. I was often bullied for having a masculine outlook. It was only after I got into a nurturing relationship that I found support and was able to undertake the transition, ” he said.

The need to have a queer support group was brought forth by two students of a local college. “We have formed a queer collective in our college and hold meetings in which we share our feelings and offer emotional support to each other. The college does not want to officially recognise the collective but we have many student allies, ” said Arshia and Kriti.

Speaking on the occasion, GCCBA Principal Prof Punam Agarwal said that even though there are now laws and policies favouring the queer community, we as a society also need to evolve. “We have to bring a behavioural change so that the spirit of equality enshrined in the Constitution gets implemented on the ground, ” she added.

Caroline Rowett, the British Deputy High Commissioner, Chandigarh, was the guest of honour at the event. Other partners of Garvotsav 2023 include Humsafar Trust, Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, Copan CSPL and Lalit Suri Foundation.

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