The world is currently celebrating Pride Month with great zeal and enthusiasm. The month is celebrated to honour the Stonewall uprising, which took place around 1969 in Manhattan. It was the turning point in the United States’ gay liberation movement. Today, pride parades, conferences, awareness programs and concerts are held, and LGBTQ Pride Month activities draw millions of people worldwide. It celebrates the contributions of the LGBTQ+  communities to society. 

In India, Pride Month celebrations have gained momentum only in the last decade. However, the queer community has always been a part of its history and society. This article looks at the unique history and struggles of the transgender community in India.

Role of the transgender community in Indian History

Since time immemorial, transgender people have been considered a part of India’s culture. The western term “Transgender” is an oversimplified and convenient umbrella term used to refer to a diverse group of people who do not identify with the two traditional gender role of male and female. The Indian subcontinent is a blast of a variety of culture and languages. Each has its own term to refer to the third gender – Hijras, eunuchs, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shaktis, among so many others. We may be compelled to use these as synonyms. But each word is attached to its own unique langue and culture, giving the person that holds it an identity of their own. 

Their intricate identities are proof of their existence in our culture since time immemorial. This community has been a significant part of the ancient Indian texts – The Vedas. The great Sanskrit epics of Mahabharata and Ramanya also held a place for the individuals identifying with the third gender. Even the Hindu, Islamic, Jain and Buddhist religions, too, recognised and accepted their presence.

The transgender community played a significant role in the royal courts of the Mughal Empire too. They help key governing roles in the courts. They were also seen as having spiritual power and were sought after for blessings, especially during religious rituals. They were thought to be trustworthy and loyal and therefore had unrestricted access to all locations and portions of the populace. 

However, with the inception of British rule in India, the position of transgender people started deteriorating significantly. The Hijra community were a threat to colonial power and the English government. Thus, British officials attempted to eliminate and outlaw the Hijra population through various laws. The Criminal Tribes Act 1871 criminalised the very existence of a third-gender under the guise of prosecuting those actually committing criminal acts. This pre-partition past has had a detrimental impact on the hijra’s position in society today.

The struggle faced by the Trans Community

The equal social and political standing of the Transgender community in India is vulnerable today. The community has been treated unequally in schools, public department, employment areas and other socio-political platforms. Transgender children have also reported prejudice from their peers in the classroom. Because they are “different,” transgender children are three times more likely to be ostracized by their classmates.

Several recent studies have found that transgender people are shunned and discriminated against even by their own family and friends. As a result, many children turn to drug selling, vehicle theft and get trapped into sexual exploitation. Even though the Supreme Court of India granted transgender persons legal recognition in the National Legal Service Authority v. Union of India in 2014, transgender persons continue to face political and societal discrimination. 

The stigma is transmitted across society due to cultural stigma and socialization. Transgender people are subjected to enormous societal burden to conceal their identity from the public sphere because they are considered different. In a society where diverse groups of people exist, there is always a distinction between “my group” and “their group”. The transgender community has to face the ill consequences of being the outsiders than being the ingroup.

The National Human Rights Commission’s first-ever report on transgender rights provides a thorough understanding of the country’s transgender population. According to the report, almost 92 per cent of transgender people in the nation are denied employment. As a result, they are coerced into prostitution, which has caused a high prevalence of HIV cases among the group.

 Even if several resolutions that benefit the trans community have been passed, there is still a long way to go. Some trans individuals continue to live in a state of abstract poverty. Their gender should not be a reason their lead impoverished lives.

UPAY NGO PRIDE MONTH volunteers children

What more can we do to be an inclusive society?

We should raise public tolerance of the concept of gender fluidity and move away from the heteronormative default. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, has provided legal recognition and rights to trans persons under Article 21 of the Constitution. However, several problems in the bill require immediate addressing. Trans persons should have more representation in Parliament and other government areas. Legislators should enact more progressive policies in areas such as education and employment for the trans community. 

We are all different in our being. It is what makes our society a vibrant place to live. Let’s preserve this diversity and make a place for everyone.

Written by: Siddhant Jaiswal                       
Edited by: Ananya Shetty

National Reading Day

One of the most incredible acts of empowerment in society today is undoubtedly being literate and having the agency to attain education. So often, people neglect the value reading provides to their lives. It is only when we look at the situation of those deprived that we see the changes mere ability and accessibility to read can make. This National Reading Day, let’s acknowledge how having the power of words can help reform lives for the better. 

Reading and education go hand in hand. One is the way to another. They do not just facilitate obtaining employment, but it also helps one grow as a person altogether. Books can open a gateway for a perspective that can help people understand or relate to others’ experiences and gain awareness about other causes. Reading also installs a sense of discipline and decorum among people and can also establish the grounds of commonly shared experiences. 

History Surrounding Reading Day

The National Reading Day commemorates the death anniversary of P.N. Panicker, also known as the Father of the Library Movement in Kerala. His initiative of setting up 47 rural libraries across the state garnered a lot of appreciation. 

This day encourages everyone to indulge in the fruitful habit of reading and promotes the importance of books in every person’s life. The day was initially celebrated only as Kerala’s Reading Day. However, in 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi adopted it as a national celebration. 

UPAY’s Library Initiative 

UPAY has been closely working with underprivileged children and their families for a long time now. In the past few years, we have recognised the necessity to establish a fully functioning library. We noticed that the volunteers working with our organization belonged to similar communities and required academic resources. Most of them lived in joint families that did not have a separate space to conduct studies. They also don’t have the resources to turn to anybody for references regarding higher education or competitive exams.

Thus, to provide them with space and the required amenities, we set up a library in Mouda on 24th April 2018. The reach of our library has significantly expanded over the years and aided several beneficiaries. In the last three years, the library has stocked up on 356 books covering a range of topics like NCERT, motivational books, reference books, languages and other competitive exam books for BANK PO, IBPS, RRB, PSI-STI ASO, MHT, CET, MPSC, and UPSC.

Circulating books and providing a space for students and volunteers to study was a challenging task during the pandemic. However, we continuously strive to provide students in need with the books they require to avoid academic hindrance. Providing education and facilitating is a cause we deeply believe in and shall continue to provide these children with the resources to create a better future. 

Helping even one person in need can make a more significant difference to their life. Education for people with challenging backgrounds can help them form a life they’ve never experienced before and open their options for employment and a better, more secure life. So this Reading Day, let’s indulge in the values of reading and help those around us. 

Written by : Sneha Manoharan

Edited by : Ananya Shetty

To Fathers who challenge the norms

The bond between a father and daughter is exceptional. In this patriarchal society where oppression of women is a thing of the present, this bond can be a great source of empowerment for the daughters of our community. Here at UPAY, we have such a father, daughter duo we would like to celebrate in our post today.

Traditionally a father’s role in parenting has been set to pay the bills and role model the boys. But this father took a little step outside that box to support his daughter. Sanjivani stays in a village called Lapka near Mauda. She is a student at UPAY who wanted to pursue taekwondo along with her schooling. 

Sports are conventionally seen as something boys do and miles away from what girls are supposed to do. However, this did not stop Sanjivani’s father from letting her follow her dreams. He encouraged her to do what she wanted. With his support and her passion, she started excelling in the sport of taekwondo. 

Her dedication led her to open the doors to some incredible opportunities. She began stepping into competitions. Her progress led her to be a National taekwondo player. Her father was there for her throughout her journey. She earned awards in National competitions and even got selected to compete at the International level.

Being there for his daughter made it possible for her to shine, represent her village, her family on a National level. Her father did what was best for his child and did not let society decide otherwise. 

Many fathers out there have given a child, like Sanjivini, an opportunity to shine and be herself, despite what society has to say. So on their day today, it is essential that we give them a token of appreciation.

Children are often segregated into streams which “suit” their gender. Boys are encouraged to do well in sports, and girls are expected to be good at academics. Everything seems so binary and set in its ways that the introduction of a bit of complexity scares people. So it is discouraged and opposed. But it can’t be denied.

So here is a little THANK YOU from us for stepping up for us. For making it easier for us to follow our passions, interests and dreams. For letting us be ourselves.

Written by : Goutami Patankar

Edited by : Ananya Shetty

Donate Blood to Keep the World Beating

Cristiano Ronaldo, the famous footballer, was once asked why he did not tattoo his body despite the trend among other footballers. Ronaldo replied that if he gets tattoos, he won’t be able to donate blood, which is a privilege he doesn’t want to miss! This sports star is known for donating blood quite frequently. What an inspiration!! 

The history of blood donations dates back to the 17th century and was prominently used to cure ailments. Despite the changing times, blood as valuable as always in medical science. On average, the human body consists of 4 to 5 litres of blood donated. Men can give their blood every three months and women every four months. 

Blood is an essential medical resource to save lives. It cannot be substituted or artificially produced. Thus, blood donation is the only for medical institutions to obtain blood to treat their patients. The donated blood is used to treat patients suffering from an array of severe circumstances- accidents, anaemia, child birth, cancer treatments, and blood disorders are just a few to name.  

Despite its significance to society, there is still a lot of taboo in regards to blood donation. There is a fear that donating blood is harmful to your body. We are here to let you know it is not! There is absolutely no risk in donating blood at a credible health facility if you are a healthy individual. In fact, it has a lot of benefits.

Your body is forced to create new blood cells when you donate blood. Thus, it is a great way to revitalise your body. Moreover, it can act as a reminder to get you a basic health check-up every few months. Before every blood donation, you get yourself tested for things like cholesterol, haemoglobin, and iron. Only if you are healthy in these aspects will you be allowed to donate blood. It is a good step towards taking care of your health.

The most significant prospect of donating blood is that you are giving someone the essence of life. Our blood has three different components that are vital for living. Thus, by donating just one unit of blood, you give someone the ability to save three lives. 

Every year hundreds of lives are lost due to a shortage of blood. Especially in India, annual requirements go up to 12 Million per unit, but only 9 Million per unit of the demand is met. The current circumstance has only exaggerated the situation. It is crucial, NOW more than ever, to volunteer to donate your blood. 

Imagine having the knowledge that your blood has given someone, somewhere, a second chance at life. 

It hardly takes an hour for the whole process of blood donation to take place. But gives years and years of life to someone who gets it. As the saying goes, service to humankind is service to God, Blood donation literally defines it. 

So what are you waiting for? Go make a difference! Donate your blood at the nearest blood donation centre today.

Written by : Fida Khan
Edited by : Ananya Shetty

World Against Child Labor

Childhood is a time when children learn from a variety of day to day experiences. These experiences and learnings construct how they evaluate and make decisions about their future life circumstances. So it is fair to say that the impact of experiences in their formative years has long-lasting effects on the rest of their lives. 

During this critical period, being exploited for minimum labour and put in harm’s way damages their holistic development. Child Labour is a term that precisely acknowledges this experience. It refers to the type of work a child participates in that interferes with their learning and can leave them scared with psychological and physical trauma.

Unfortunately, recent estimates show that around 160 Million children worldwide were in child labour at the start of 2020. Global Progress to overcome child labour has been slowing down in the last four years. This progress has been hindered even more owing to the Covid-19 economic recession. 

Sadly, India is one of the countries with a high prevalence of child labour. Nearly 7.3 per cent of the 160 million children estimated to be in child labour are in India. Our country is not immune to the ill effects of the Covid pandemic on the child labour statistics. While many child labour cases are more visible in the rural landscape, the urban streets are not free of this evil. 

Cause of Child Labour

Poverty is one of the reasons for child labour around the world. It is a common ailment for those living in third-world countries. India is one such country! Poor economic growth is both the cause and effect of widespread child labour cases. 

Studies show that more than a third of the Indian population lives below the poverty line. They do not have the resources to meet basic standards of living. Overwhelming life circumstances deprive them of the opportunity to build intellectual skills. Leading them to resort to performing odd jobs and hard labour work in the unorganised job sectors to earn a living. 

However, these jobs are not high paying. They offer no job security. Moreover, working in this sector makes it harder to benefit from the policies that protect the rights of employees. Thus, to survive as a family, every member has to work some odd job. This fight for survival is one of the gateways into child labour for many children in India. 

The Long-term Impact of Child Labour

The impact of their sincere efforts is entrapping. Child Labour allows families to survive now, but in the long run, it reinforces the intergenerational cycle of poverty. The most significant way a child is mistreated is that they are tricked out of their opportunity to learn and be educated. They are snatched of their chance to climb out of poverty. 

Moreover, in India, despite being aware of the illegal status of child labour, no one reports it when they encounter such a case. Years of sustenance of this evil has somewhat normalised child labour in our country. It only adds to the challenges officials face to fight this social issue.

These officials and social workers are scared for the well-being of the children of our country. Apart from the obvious physical and psychological ill-effects, their worry comes from the instances of child trafficking. It is very closely related to child labour and always leads to child abuse. Children are at risk of being subjected to prostitution, forced marriage, illegal adoption, unpaid labour and recruited to armed groups. 

Policy response, especially now, along with increased social protection services, is imperative in curbing the offsetting impact of Covid-19 on the fight against Child Labour. 

Efforts taken by UPAY to abolish child labour

We at UPAY believe that education can act as the equaliser among families. It will allow children to look at the world outside their hardships, dream big and equip them with tools to make those dreams a reality.  At UPAY, we don’t just focus on theory-based learning. We understand the need for skill-based learning to help children from low-income backgrounds overcome their socio-economic circumstances. 

Education for these children can sometimes be a far-fetched dream due to their living conditions and family background. We help bridge the gap between a child and their education as we believe that, if they cannot reach good schools, good schools should reach them. 

UPAY currently operates 40 centres across the country where around 1800 children rely on us to get stable education. Through initiatives like Reach & Teach and Footpathshala, we aim to get rid of the disparities in the field of education. While Footpathshala is an initiative that aims to reach children who have never been to school, Reach & Teach aims to provide quality education even in the most deprived places. Children are taught via open classroom programs by incorporating recreational and skill development activities to help keep the children engaged. 

The NGO has also helped set up libraries after class and provided the children’s immediate family with fresh meals. We aim to help facilitate the students and encourage them to keep coming back to our classrooms and complete their education. 

Written by : Sneha Manoharan
Edited by : Ananya Shetty