Kolkata, Apr 3 : The transgender community in West Bengal who have been ostracised have been given refuge in the 'shelter homes' that are being funded by the United Nation Development Program (UNDP).
The shelter homes have been set up to provide the transgenders recognition in a society where they are shunned, reviled and often humiliated.
Agniva Lahiri, the spokesperson and a development activist is quick to point out that these shelter homes provide just a temporary refuge and said that she is completely against their institutionalization.
She stressed that it is an effort to understand the 'different' needs of the transgenders and provide them with a comfortable environment.
"We try to use this shelter home as a crisis intervention center, so we also welcome people with marginal sexuality who have suicidal tendencies, issues around violence, problems in the families and need a short term shelter," said Lahiri.
Lahiri added that in no way the shelter homes should be treated as 'another prison' being created by the 'normal and developed' society.
The place does not have any lavish arrangements but the two room-kitchen house has become a haven for these marginalized people.
According to the transgenders who visit the place regularly, the shelter home translates into a place where they can express themselves without fear or shame.
"We come here, have some snacks, tea but the main attraction is the feeling that one can be oneself here. Children and teenagers also come here, they sing, dance and take part in other such activities," said Bappa, a transgender.
The shelter was set up as part of a pilot project for UNDP in December 2007. It became fully operational from February.
There are plans to set up more such shelters across the country with the hope that the society will accept them and be more tolerant towards the transgenders. by Ajitha Menon