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The recognition of transgenders and transsexuals as a distinct gender group is crucial for their emancipation, experts said Saturday at a public tribunal here on access to justice for the community.

The tribunal, organised by the Centre for Legal Aid and Rights in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), saw more than 100 participants from the community.

The issues discussed at the event included denial of health services, human trafficking, and sexual and emotional abuses faced by the community.

Speaking at the tribunal, activist Priya Babu of Tamil Nadu emphasised the need for the community’s recognition as a separate gender group in order to address these issues.

“Unless we are classified as a gender and the government on this basis legislates for reservation for the transgender community at all levels, we cannot win the battle against marginalisation and discrimination,” Babu said.

“Human trafficking is a sad reality for transgenders, although it doesn’t get highlighted often due to society’s neglect of the community,” said Mumbai-based classical dancer and activist Laxmi Tripathi.

Tripathi added that the community needs to “assert its rights and take them by force if needed”.

“The identity crisis is very confusing for a transgender person. It creates a lot of problems, especially in situations where paperwork is involved,” said Nisha of Lovelife, an organisation working for the community.

Rudrani of Delhi-based Mitr Trust, an NGO working with sexual minority groups, highlighted the violence faced by the community across the country.

“(I) sincerely hope that legal luminaries and key policy makers listen to us and help us convey our deep seated concerns,” she said.

“We need to understand to what extent social exclusion based on identity is impacting their rights to property and inheritance, denial of access to health care, social welfare schemes including identity cards, and livelihood programmes,” Centre for Legal Aid and Rights director Laya Medhini said.

Acting Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Arjan Kumar Sikri said it was not difficult to interpret that the constitutional rights and other laws applicable to Indian citizens were also applicable to the community.

“It is important for the judiciary to come out with bold pronouncements in support of this community,” he added.

Other eminent persons present on the occasion included Congress MP E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Justice Prabha Sridevan, chairman of he Intellectual Property Appellate Board Anjali Gandhi, and noted artist Dolly Thakore of the Jamia Milia Islamia University.

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