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Questions Of Transgender Rights, Identity, And Community At CLPR’s Transform 2022

In her panel on the Drawbacks of Transgender Laws that affect Community Solidarity, Santa Khurai presented an extensive research study titled Gaining Full Citizenship of Manipuri Indigenous Nupi Maanbi and Nupa Maanba. It highlighted transness, identity, and indigeneity. Particularly in relation to identity, Santa questioned the documents that seek to provide legibility to trans lives.

[Co-Author: Nilanjan Dey]

The Centre for Law and Policy Research, in collaboration with Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit, held the sixth edition of their flagship conference on transgender rights and the law in India on 9th December, 2022 at St. Joseph’s Institute of Management, Bangalore.

The panel titled TransForming Rights: How the Law shapes Transgender Lives, Identity, and Community in India saw Dr. Svati Shah (Assoc. Prof., Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts), Kalki Subramaniam (Founder, Sahodari Organization and Trans Activist), and Santa Khurai (Manipuri Indigenous Nupi Maanbi Scholar) exploring the intersections between multi-layered complexities of transgender lives and the law in India. The panel was moderated by Senior Advocate and Executive Director of CLPR, Jayna Kothari. 

The panel began with Dr. Shah presenting their paper – Judging Individualism: Reading Supreme Court Decisions and Legal Proposals for Sexuality and Gender Norms in a Shrinking Democracy, where they discussed pertinent judgments on queer-trans rights in India through a lens involving individualism, body, biology, and the state. Their talk was followed by Kalki Subramaniam’s presentation on Implementation of Transgender Rights: Where do we stand with NALSA today? which emphasized upon the long history of violence and abuse against the trans communities and how the non-implementation of the Supreme Court’s guidelines in NALSA has led to increasing challenges for the transgender community in India. Kalki also referred to empirical data on lack of reservation for transpersons, the denial of jobs in organized sector, and the lack of access to quality education among other issues.

Jayna Kothari responded to Kalki by highlighting family exclusion and lack of marriage rights for same sex couples, especially the many petitions being filed in the courts concerning marriage equality. At the same time, reservation is still a big hurdle faced by the trans community. Nevertheless, there has been some progress in cases such as the one filed by trans activist Grace Banu which led to Karnataka government providing 1% reservation to transpersons in public employment.

In her panel on the Drawbacks of Transgender Laws that affect Community Solidarity, Santa Khurai presented an extensive research study titled Gaining Full Citizenship of Manipuri Indigenous Nupi Maanbi and Nupa Maanba. It highlighted transness, identity, and indigeneity. Particularly in relation to identity, Santa questioned the documents that seek to provide legibility to trans lives.

Towards the end, the stage was opened for questions from the audience. The questions ranged from trans masculine representation, addressing intimate partner violence within the trans community, to anticipatory legislations to protect trans people from incidents of mass violence. Dr. Svati shared their concerns about trans masculine representation due to factors such as lesser economic autonomy and lesser access to public spaces for AFAB people, in addition to the higher prevalence of visibility of trans women in history. One of the most important issues raised was on addressing the mental health of trans activists, especially in crisis support, which takes a huge toll on the mental health along with trauma from family, society, and the state.

TransForm 2022 continued on 11th December 2022 where a Writers’ Workshop at CLPR saw 19 queer-trans authors from all over India present their papers on the themes of ‘Transgender Rights and the Constitution’; ‘The Right to Intimacy, Love, and Family’; ‘Legal Developments: Labour, Livelihood, and Human Rights’; and ‘The Future of Trans Activism in India’. This Workshop as part of TransForm 2022 was part of the project that will produce a publication titled “TransForming Rights: How the Law shapes Transgender Lives, Identity, and Community in India” – the first edited collection of writings on trans rights in India. We hope the publication will be a valuable sourcebook for researchers, students, policy makers, practitioners, and advocates for the discourse of transgender rights in India.    

The livestream for the panel discussion can be viewed here.

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Rajeev completed their under graduation in Political Science Hons. from Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi in 2020. They graduated with Masters in Women’s Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in 2022 and were a participant at the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute, University of Iowa for the 2021-22 session. They have been the recipient of Mavelinadu Collective’s grant for non-fiction for the first issue of Debrahminising Gender. Their work can be found in EPW, Women’s Link Journal, Shuddhashar, Gaysi Family, Feminism in India and Hindu College Gazette among others. Their research interests include queer experiences, feminist ethics of care, and masculinities.

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