Protest South Central Railways, India, arrest and fining of hijras (July 2011) sign now

We, the undersigned concerned groups and citizens, strongly condemn the recent actions of South Central Railway officials in arresting and fining of members of the hijra community on its railway network. We additionally protest their discriminatory, prejudiced and defamatory language in speaking of the hijra community in their subsequent press release.

On July 12, 2011, South Central Railway (SCR) reported (via Press Release No. 115 http://tinyurl.com/3hva9ro), that in a series of concentrated, special drives, 212 hijras and transgender people were arrested and prosecuted, and that an amount of Rs. 34,150 was collected in fines from them, with 11 hijras being sent to prison. The statement from the South Central Railway clearly uses the language of eradication of the hijra menace making it apparent that these "special drives are not actions to maintain law and order but to target and defame a community in particular. The South Central Railway has not only engaged in this persecution but has also declared this action with pride!

These actions seem to be completely out of sync with some recent positive developments and make us wonder if Indian public servants are completely oblivious of the 2009 decision of the Delhi High Court which read down Section 377 of the IPC! In addition, India has also been at the forefront, globally, as far as the recognition of genders other than male and female, including the Hijra identity. Recent announcements by different state bodies, such as the National Election Commission explicitly recognise the existence of 'other' genders. Even the application for a visa to visit India now offers three categories for gender.

These are some progressive steps taken by the State to begin addressing the historical marginalization of other genders and their/our exclusion from jobs, public services and access to basic rights. It must be remembered that under colonial rule, there was a targeted persecution of the hijra community under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 and only recently some steps like the ones mentioned above have been taken by the State to undo the effects of this history.

Against this background, the actions of the SCR militate against these recognitions which deserve to be celebrated. In persecuting a particular community as opposed to maintaining law and order within their constituency in a just and neutral manner, the actions of the South Central Railways is unacceptable. It is imperative that officers of the state are not prejudiced by existing social stigma and discrimination and perform their duties with utmost integrity and protect the interests of marginalized sections of society at all costs.

We demand:

That those 11 hijras who have been imprisoned be released at the earliest and this information be made public.

That South Central Railways officials issue an immediate public apology for their actions and the defamation of an entire community, especially the language used in the press release.

That the officials responsible for ordering this special drive are subject to a departmental enquiry, and that the fines collected from the hijra community are returned.

That the South Central Railway initiate sensitization programs of gender and sexuality that will acquaint them with realities beyond their own, and

That they publicly commit to protect and encourage a dignified living for hijra communities, and provide alternative livelihoods within its railways network.

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Luella ArellanoBy:
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South Central Railways

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