Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Gender No Bar- A transgender speaks at the 12th International Sex Workers' Freedom Festival, Kolkata

Ruksar Mirza stays at Charminar bazaar, Hyderabad. She is 26-year-old. She has been staying here since she was 19. Her monthly earnings are around Rs 8000 a month out of which she sends Rs 4000 to her old mother every month. She has 2 sisters and a brother. Though her brothers are earning well enough to feed their families they do not offer any financial help to their mother. Its all Ruksar who alone looks after her mother. Every weekend she takes her mother to some restaurant because she cannot meet her mother at her very own home.
“How shall I meet my mother at my home? I am not allowed to even enter into my locality. Forget about outsiders, my own brother shuns my presence in the home. But my parents loved me a lot. My father was always by my side till his last breath. In fact he always had this feeling that he could not do much to help me live a better life,” says Ruksar. Ruksar is a sex worker. She is a transgender.
Born an eunuch to Muslim parents, life had never been an easy ride for Ruksar. Right from her school days she has always been shunned by the people around. It was only her parents who were always beside her. Though due to financial constraints in the family her father could hardly do anything for her.
“When I was at school, my classmates always made fun of me. They would ask me derogatory questions. My teachers at my own school were cooperative. I hated going to school due to such reasons. I wanted to study further and earn a respectable position in the society but back then I did not know that being an eunuch would earn me such difficulties. Still I continued my studies but the jolt came during my matriculate examinations when the invigilators at the exam venue misbehaved with me. The teachers even made fun of me. I was greatly disheartened and could not appear for the rest of the examinations,” laments Ruksar.
Applying kohl over her eyes and gearing up for the warming up session to be held for the sex workers at the International Sex workers Freedom Festival at Swabhumi. Ruksar and many more like her attended the festival and represented their respective CBOs and NGOs. Of late, many CBOs have been started for the all round development of the eunuchs, male sex workers and transgenders.
 Suraksha, a Hyderabad based CBO is one of them.  Ruksar is now employed at Suraksha as one of its volunteers. Suraksha was founded in the year 2004 by a collective group of male sex workers and transgenders. Since then it has been involved in various reform programs such as engaging the MSM and TG sex workers in various vocational training programs, arranging large scale HIV and AIDS awareness programs for the community people. Ruksar has also been sponsored by Suraksha when she wanted to undergo the sex change surgery at the age of 19.
Since she could not continue her education, she decided to take up some work to support her family. Her father arranged a job for her at the same printing press where he worked. But even there she was badly humiliated. She then took up job as a domestic help at a clinic. But she had to face insult over there also.
“I still hadn’t lost hope but when I was denied to apply for a voter card just because I had an indefinite sex, I was broken. I felt as if I had no identity. I was just 15. It was that moment when I decided to be a sex worker,” says Ruksar.
Eunuchs have always faced difficulties in living a respectable life. Ruksar was no exception. But she had the spirits to still fight for her rights. The bitter experiences made her more determined to fight for her rights.
In her words, whatever the gender is, why should one be denied to live as a human? “Is it my fault that I was born an eunuch? It is all natural. If I being a 10th grade dropout can understand this fact then why not the educated mass? Why do we still have to face humiliation in public places? Even we are human beings. We are also born to a family. We love our family. But sometimes the societal pressure even does not allow living peacefully with one’s family.”
“When I came to know of Suraksha, I contacted them they offered great help and relief. The counseling programs helped me attain mental peace. When at the age of 19, I decided to undergo a sex change surgery, it was Suraksha which funded most of the money. Out of 60000 rupees spent for the surgery, 40000 rupees was granted to me by Suraksha,” Ruksar says.
Since then Ruksar has been associated with the CBO meant especially for the transgenders. Life has been a pleasant journey for Ruksar and many more like her after joining Suraksha. They get paid on a monthly basis for the various volunteership programs they are involved into.
Ruksar’s father expired two years back and her aged mother stays alone at her home. Her brother does not allow her to meet her mother. Hence Ruksar arranges to meet her mother at places away from her home.
In a country, where transgenders are still fighting for a dignified position in the society, Ruksar has set an example for many like her in leading a respectable life. She will serve as an inspiration for generations to come. It's high time that we stop shunning these real-life bravehearts and treat them with respect.

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