A member of the West Bengal Transgender Welfare Board, Ranjita Sinha has been working towards fighting prejudice and ensuring trans rights for the last decade.
“This year my family and the ATHB members were eager to host Durga Puja at home to celebrate the striking down of section 377 by the apex court and the NALSA judgement. With this puja we are trying to convey that we are no different, we are human beings with the same flesh and blood, we too worship the Gods,” says Ranjita Sinha, who has been fighting for the rights of the transgender community for the last decade. Ranjita is also a member of the West Bengal Transgender Board and founded Gokhale Road Bandhan, a nonprofit that creates awareness about HIV, and works with various stakeholders to create awareness among people towards trans inclusivity.
She says that her journey as an activist began at a time when the trans community was being crushed. “We faced discrimination on a daily basis, I can’t even talk about some incidents. We were beaten up and ostracised” she recounts. Although the the scrapping of Section 377 and the NALSA verdict of 2013 have been victories for the LGBTQIA community, they’re a long way from being recognised and accepted as citizens with rights and dignity in their day to day lives. The community continues to face discrimination, ostracization, unemployment, homelessness, challenges in access to healthcare and in pursuing education. The literacy rate amongst the transgender community is 56.7%. Even when some of them find a job, 40% reportedly face harassment on the basis on their gender identity.
To help members of the trans community find employment, Ranjita’s organisation runs a skill building programme. “At present, eight trans women we work with are learning to sew. It is a big achievement for us because once they learn, we can open a tailoring unit for them. Our trans brothers are being trained as medical representatives,” says Ranjita.
For the development of the transgender community in the future, Ranjita feels that is important not to conflate trans issues with women’s issues. “I am afraid that there will be no separate development for the transgender community. We have been clubbed under the ministry for women and children, which means there is no separate development approach for us,” she says. “There needs to be a little more awareness, different grievance cells for reporting abuse, livelihood, education, food, stay, everything needs more attention. More empathy is needed,” she says.
Video by Community Correspondent Debgopal Mondal
Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of the VV editorial team