In a historic decision, the Manipur State Commission for Women has announced the launch of a transgender women’s grievance cell. To be formally opened tomorrow, it sets a new benchmark for inclusion of transgender women in government bodies. "As far as I know it is one of the first in the country," says Prof Binota Meinam, chairperson, Manipur State Commission for Women. According to her, this is a step towards integrating marginalised and vulnerable sections of the population into mainstream society. "They should have access to governance platforms and get speedy redressal to their grievances. There should be legal and social inclusion of transgender women, only then can they lead a meaningful life in the country," she adds.
“This has come after a long struggle,” says Santa Khurai, a Manipuri indigenous Nupi Maanbi (transgender woman) from Manipur. Hers has been one of the most significant voices advocating this inclusion. “Trans women should be included in redressal cells meant for women. This has been a matter of controversy, especially with some ‘feminists’, who are so transphobic,” says the writer, poet, artist and secretary of the state-level apex body for queer All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMANA).
The argument is that if someone identifies as a woman, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be included in bodies meant to protect them or safeguard their rights. “It is not necessary that a person has to go through surgical or medical intervention. Gender is something to do with your inner feelings. You can’t limit the definition of women to biological attributions,” she says.
Through her activism, Khurai has always wanted to restructure the definition of feminism. The ideas of women equality and empowerment should be expanded to include everyone who identifies as one. “It is not just important to voice this, but to also make concrete efforts to bring this inclusion within formal structures. Hence the starting of a grievance cell for transgender women is a most welcome step by the Manipur State Commission for Women, and it sends a wonderful message to trans people across the globe,” elaborates Khurai.
This cell has been the need of the hour for a long time, given the violence that the trans community faces. Some steps have been taken towards this in recent times across the country to create a more inclusive and safe environment for the community. For instance, last month, the Cyberabad police inaugurated a ‘transgender community desk’ at the Gachibowli police station. And yet efforts such as these are few and far in between.
“I recently came across a notification in a local newspaper where a public hearing had been called by the chairperson of the Manipur State Commission for Women. It sought ideas and thoughts from different groups of women to develop a gender policy, which was to be tabled in front of the state cabinet,” says Khurai. She joined the meeting and spoke about the exclusion and vulnerabilities of transgender women. After coming back, Khurai drafted a proposal to address some of these concerns—one of the suggestions was a grievance cell. “Online harassment, trolling and bullying has become an everyday thing in trans women’s lives. There are also cases of property denials and bullying in public places. These concerns are not taken seriously. This cell will hopefully change that. It should also employ a trans woman to create better understanding of the issues,” she adds.