Discarding trans-people from society because of the sex assigned to them at their birth shows the intolerance and the emotional health of a nation. Not just that! Till today, in many places- they have been branded as a social stigma, which is followed by systemic inequality. So what are they left to do? Beg on the streets or work as a sex worker.
Such is the story of Salma Khan, the first trans-woman in the three-member panel of Mumbai’s District Suburban Legal Services Authority.
Fighting for issues like lack of legal protection, poverty, harassment and stigma, anti-transgender violence, identity documents, a barrier to healthcare- for people belonging to trans-community, she is definitely fearless if nothing else!
On my first day at MDLSA in Bandra, litigants gave me a weird look, but when I came forward to discuss their matters confidently, they understood that it is not the gender, but the knowledge which matters the most.
The 38-year-old is a social activist and the founder of Kinnar Maa Trust. She is changing the lives of thousands of people from her community through this trust. “On every 4th of the month, the trust distributes ration to trans-people who have HIV, cancer, tuberculosis, handicapped, accident victims, rape victims. We hope to continue working for the development and fundamental rights of transgender people. We will keep working till the time their rights are not secured, our rights are not secured,” said Salma to Scroll.in in a video.
Watch the video here-
She says, before she was selected as one of the Lok Adalat panelists, she also got an offer from Bigg Boss (in season 1) but Salma turned down the offer because she says, “people would laugh at me, tease me because I am a transgender – so I think this is a cheap publicity stunt on my part and therefore I have turned it down.”
But, in February, Salma got a mail from Lok Adalat from the Old Court and asked for confirmation because out of 16 people, they have shortlisted three and from there selected one. Salma says, “That was me because I have the most experience out of 16 people and they have seen my hard work and read a lot of articles by me. That is why I got selected because of my education. When they asked about agreeing, without a second thought I said yes.”
She was appointed from the Social Justice Department along with a retired judge from the Bombay High Court and a sessions court lawyer on the panel. “I belong to a middle-class family. I grew up in Mumbai and my mother struggled to educate me. Then as a transgender, I worked with various organizations. I have worked at Sinn hospital as a counselor. My wish is to work for the rights of transgender people to secure their basic rights. Because our community is an oppressed community and it has been deprived of its rights,” said Salma to Scroll.in.
Due to lack of opportunity and oppression, many trans-people when they’re young, they beg at traffic signals and inside trains, go for badhai (festive) ceremonies, and undertake sex work. But when they reach old age, then there is no one to take care of them. Forget the old age, in the young age only they have succumbed to bad incidents.
Salma says that people from kinnar-community do not want participation in reality shows like Bigg Boss as a contender; they want trans-ashram, a shelter home for transgender people. The chief minister should also intervene and offer a solution.
Kinnar Maa works for the fundamental rights of transgenders, works on their education, their skill development and on their health and social sectors.
On her first day as Lok Adalat panelist, Salma Khan sat along with retired district judge and a lawyer in the panel and resolved 24 cases amicably. She feels this is yet another step for the progressive world, for the transgender community.