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The year 2014 is a landmark in the history of the Indian transgender community. Nearly seven decades after Independence, the Supreme Court finally recognised the 2 million strong community as the ‘third gender’. The decision came in April, in a case filed by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), a legal body that provides aid to the weaker sections of society.
Although the judgement bestowed upon every citizen the right to choose their gender and directed the Centre and states to take necessary steps to ensure transgenders personal autonomy and protection against discrimination, sexual violence against the third gender remains a blind spot in the statute books of the country.
Another fault line is the nature of response of law enforcement agencies and medical professionals in cases of sexual violence against the community. In some instances, there is obvious criminal complicity of the authorities in inflicting such violence, and in other cases, more appallingly, they are further harassed.
India’s transgender community has remained largely marginalised and is forced to eke out a living through sex work and begging. At present, although there are no national-level studies to validate sexual violence against the transgender community, those working in the field say it is rampant and grossly under-reported.
A study conducted by an independent set of researchers across Karnataka in 2012 reveals that there was 18 percent prevalence of sexual violence against the transgender — Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) community. The most common perpetrators of this violence were clients (61 percent), police (18 percent), a regular partner (13 percent), a pimp (10 percent) and ‘others’ (21 percent). Another study conducted by HIV Alliance India reveals that in 10 percent cases of reported violence, customers soliciting their services were the perpetrators.
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