“It is hard for the society to think of us as equals, when our relationships are criminalised by law,” said Judge Victoria Kolakowski, the first openly transgender trial judge in the US and the President of the International Association of LGBT Judges. “People have to get to know us to realize that we are part of them, we are human beings too,” she added. Judge Kolakowski was interacting with audiences in Chennai and Kochi on Monday, as part of the US Consulate General’s LGBTQI Pride Month programmes. Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), a Kochi-based think tank, was the organiser of the virtual interaction in Kochi.
Judge Kolakowski recounted her legal battle to get enrolled as a lawyer in the US. Legal strategy is only a part of the solution to ending discrimination against the LBGTQI community, though it is the central part. When people start thinking about the differences among us, it becomes difficult for them to care about others. Instead of seeking special rights and privileges the community should strive to change the hearts and minds of the people.
Sunil Menon, fashion choreographer and founder member of Sahodaran, an NGO for LGBTQI rights based in Chennai, argued that the Government of India acknowledged sexual minorities and their rights when reports of large number of HIV patients in Mumbai and Chennai surfaced in 1992. He said that the more visible the community became, the more friction it attracted from the mainstream society.
Rose Venkatesan, the first transgender talk show host of Indian television, who was part of the discussion panel in Chennai, said that it was necessary for leaders from the political and social spectrum to be part of the discussions on LGBTQI community. Though the Supreme Court of India had directed the government to take steps to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on account of human rights violation, most of the State Governments have gone out of their way to disregard the issue. Kerala is the only state to have responded positively to the SC directive on the community, she added.
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