Atri Kar, a transwoman is a primary school teacher in Chandan Nagar. She got a job in 2014 before the NLSA (National Legal service authority) judgment of the Supreme Court with respect to transgender rights. The NALSA judgment simply states that ‘self-identification’ is more than enough if a person self-recognizes as a transgender. There is no need for any supportive document. When Kar approached the Block Development Officer (BDO) of Magra to change her voters ID and Aadhaar card, she was asked for supportive documents. Unclear about what needs to be done, Kar approached Amitie Trust for help. On Amitie’s suggestion, Kar approached the BDO requesting for the list of supporting documents that are required. However, the BDO had no list to give Kar since the Supreme Court has been clear in its verdict on the matter. Subsequently, Kar managed to get her documents done with help of the Sub-divisional officer.
“The crucial point here is that in spite of being educated, Atri Kar faced this problem, but there are many uneducated people who face similar problems and do not know what to do about it because they are unaware of their rights,” notes Deshapriya Mahapatra,AmitieTust.
Amitie is a French word meaning “Friendship” hence the Amitie Trust works towards building a tolerant society towards the LGBT community. Many continue to be intolerant towards the LGBT community and do not support them. In spite of these issues, the Amitie Trust has been organizing Pride Walks since 2013 in Chandan Nagar. Chandan Nagar district is in a rural area about an hour and a half away from Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal. Chandan Nagar Pride Walk begins exactly opposite the Chandan Nagar police station, a beautiful site adjoining the river Ganges. Chandan Nagar had its fifth Pride March on July 1, 2017.
The history behind Amitie Trust dates back to nearly 10 years. Amitie Trust is an organization working in Howrah, Hooghly and other neighboring districts. On April 1, 2009, Amitie was registered as a trust, prior to which Amitie had functioned for almost 4 to 5 years as an informal organisation.
However, when it comes to the Pride walk ‘visibility’ becomes an important concern, several people are not comfortable in revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity. “We began our pride walk in Chandan Nagar in the year 2013 with about 50 to 55 participants and today we are about 160 participants, which is one of our biggest achievements” adds Mahapatra.
Problems faced by the LGBT community are numerous, it is not only the authority system of the country which poses a threat to them but they face different kind of problems on a regular basis, physical harassment, verbal harassment in local trains, health related issues and many more. Some people are also uncomfortable with their attire and the way they carry out themselves.
“In the year 2002, three boys were detained by the police in the name of eve teasing; we call them ‘koti’ (effeminate males) in the local language. The police had no evidence of them Eve teasing anyone and finally had to release them. When the magistrate saw the three detained boys, she smiled and told the police, if at all you had to arrest these boys you should have accused them of Adam teasing, not Eve teasing. It was then that we realized that we should have a formal group to raise our voices against such injustice. To organize members of different sexual orientation or different gender identities to come together in the quest for justice,” narrates Mahapatra.
Awareness about ones sexual orientation or gender identity is a crucial issue. Many people are unaware about such issue hence the pride walk takes place in order to educate people about such issues and make them more sensitive and tolerant. Amitie Trust also finds the need to take the pride walk further, from rural to urban areas and spread gender awareness to a larger area and not only keep it confined to Chandan Nagar.
About the writer:
Marian Dias is a sociology graduate who hopes to start teaching the subject someday soon. Apart from loving outdoor games like basket ball and cricket, she also loves to travel and visit new places.