Kolkata, April 23: It has been more than a week now, and the transgender community of West Bengal is in no mood to end its protest marches unless and until the protesters get an assurance from the government that the accused of rape and murder cases get maximum punishment. The protest marches are also being held to highlight the daily mistreatment meted out to the community members in our society.
The marginalised transgender community from the state has been staging protests on the streets of Kolkata since April 15 after two of the most appalling rape cases--gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir and rape of a 16-year-old teenager by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh--came to light.
Both the cases caught the attention of the nation because of its barbarity and open support for the accused from a section of the ruling BJP. In the recent past, India witnessed several protests demanding justice for rape victims. After its "studied silence" over crimes against women, especially minor girls, the Narendra Modi government approved the ordinance to allow courts to award death penalty to those convicted of raping girls under 12 years recently. The ordinance has got mixed reactions as many feel that laws hold no meaning if the authorities do not bring cases of rapes to justice.
"#WestBengal: Members of transgender community stage protest in Kolkata against #Kathua & #Unnao rape cases and the mistreatment meted out to the members of the community. They have been protesting since April 15," tweeted ANI.
#WestBengal: Members of transgender community stage protest in Kolkata against #Kathua & #Unnao rape cases and the mistreatment meted out to the members of the community. They have been protesting since April 15. pic.twitter.com/nn6J1Bj1lZ— ANI (@ANI) April 22, 2018
"Every day we hear our small girls being raped and murdered in India. Women and girls feel unsafe. The Kathua and Unnao rape cases are so barbaric and see, the way powerful people are trying to shield the culprits. We are here to register our protest against rising rape cases in India," said a member of the transgender community.
"Through our protests, we also want to tell that transgenders too go through sexual assaults on a frequent basis. First, we have been ostracised by society and we also face harassment and abuse on a daily basis. All these need to end to call ourselves a civilised society," she added.
In fact, West Bengal is the first state in the country to set up a transgender development board in 2015. However, the board seems to have failed in its primary mission to integrate the community members with the mainstream society. Like in other states, there is no clarity about the estimated numbers of transgender people in West Bengal.
If activists say the figures might be as much as 30,000 transgenders in the state, the government has put the numbers at just 700. The members of the community say it is going to be more than a lakh if a proper census is conducted.
"When we don't know how many transgenders are there in a state or our country, how could the government schemes reach the people? It is because nobody, not even the government, cares for us, our community members are suffering so much," said a protester in the Kolkata march on Sunday.