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167 transgender women detained, then released in India

Transgender protest in Bangalore (Photo courtesy India Resists)
Transgender protest in Bangalore (Photo courtesy India Resists)

NLS Queer Alliance reported that some 167 members of the transgender community have been detained in two days in Karnataka state in South West India. The community quickly responded and organised a protest in response yesterday, November 26, at the Town Hall, against the illegality of police action against transgender persons.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that last Sunday, on November 23rd, some 2000 people participated at Bangalore Pride, the first since India’s Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexuality in December last year.  Bangalore is the capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

The transgender women are being kept at the local Beggar’s home.  The group is anticipating more detentions in the coming days and called this police action a mass detention and violation of human rights.  The report by NLS Queer Alliance stated:

“Most detainees were not on the streets begging or doing any act that is prohibited under the Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975. Most of them were going about their daily chores when they were arbitrarily picked up by police officers and taken away to the Beggar’s home… The police even walked into the homes of the hijras and dragged them into the (Beggar’s home).

It is to be noted that even those hijras who went to the police station because they were called by other arrested hijras were also arrested. Clearly the objective of the police was not merely to pick up those who were begging but in effect all persons who answered to the description of being hijra…

The detainees were not released even on an undertaking given by organizations working on sexuality rights. This is tantamount to arbitrary detention as the majority of those arrested have not committed any offence under the Beggary Act.

This is (a violation) of the fundamental freedom of movement which all citizens enjoy under Article 19 of the Constitution. This state action has taken on the character of a purge of hijras from the city of Bangalore violating guaranteed constitutional rights. The Supreme Court of India in the judgment of National Legal Services Authority v Union of India has upheld the rights of the transgender community…

The Vidhana Soudha, the seat of Karnataka's le...
Vidhana Soudha, Karnataka’s legislative assembly in Bengalore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Karnataka State Government has formulated a policy for Transgenders in Karnataka. The Preamble to the policy states that: “steps to create public awareness should be taken so that TGs feel that they are also part of the society, regain their respect and are not to be treated as untouchables. The solution to their problems requires concerted efforts to mainstream them and adoption of an inclusive approach in all spheres of life…”

The arbitrary mass detention of members of the transgender community is in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgment and the policy by the Karnataka State Government.”

A coalition of several organisations including Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum, Alternative Law Forum, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and Karnataka Janshakhti have demanded the State government release the detainees, and direct that there be no further detentions.  They also demanded an inquiry into these detentions by police and compensation for wrongful arrest and trauma suffered by the arrested hirjas.

Click this link to read the full report by NLS Queer Alliance.

Editor’s note: Thanks to activists quick interventions, officials freed all the prisoners by the end of the day on Wednesday, November 26th.  Akkai Padmashali wrote on Facebook:

All … got released by Beggar colony superintendent. The day was hectic in fighting for our rights with Minister, Commissioner, Additional Commissioner. After long lobby finally got released.

Today (Nov 26) protest against police brutality in front of town hall. …Finally we were on street claiming our fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution of India and were successful.

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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