We are all human beings. All human beings have an equal right to live on this earth; to live a normal life.
But who are the people with equal rights mentioned here? Are they only women and men? No. The people created by God are not only of these two types - only people of these two sexes do not live in this world. There are also people of the third gender in this society, those who are neither women nor men. They are called half human. They're transgender people. We call them 'hijras' in native language in Bangladesh.
According to a survey by the government's Department of Social Services, the number of transgender people in Bangladesh is only 9,692. But according to the estimates of the bourgeois researchers of Bangladesh, the number of transgender people in the whole country is over one and a half lakh. Most of them live in Dhaka city. There are about 15,000 of them in the capital alone. To us, hijra means annoyance and panic. They are a regular source of embarrassment to the people of the city. These strange people can be seen almost everywhere in the city. Everyone knows about their extortion. They mostly try to extort money in places like markets, roads, public transport, parks, etc. If they can't collect the money, they shout obscene language. Again, many traditionally make a living by giving blessings at weddings and birthdays in exchange for financial support. Some became helpless and went on begging. Again, a few of them are involved in sex. But why do they choose these paths? The reason is that we and our inferior social system.
On January 26, 2014, the government of Bangladesh recognized transgender people as the 'third gender'. Although they were recognized, there was no change in social attitude towards them. In this society, they don’t have any way to make a living by doing something respectable. We do not see them living in this so-called civilized society, because they are forcibly separated or they are forced to separate themselves because of the attitude of normal people towards them. They are subjected to humiliation, ridicule, neglect and oppression in every part of society, starting with the family. No child can go to school as a transgender person. No family can introduce their child as a transgender person. Society does not accept them. Whether it is an illiterate person in society or an educated and respectable person, when they see transgender people on the street, everyone looks at them as if they are a zoo animal, looking at their activities as a joke. They are not respected as human beings by anyone in the society. They do not get a chance to spend their life doing any respectable work. As a result, they are forced to go against the norms of society.
We can call transgender people sexually handicapped. Not everyone in a society is perfect. Someone's hand is taken, then someone's foot is taken, someone has one eye or is eyeless, someone's face is crooked, and many people's imperfection remains hidden. In the same way, there are some defects in the body of hijras. The main cause of this defect is the change in various hormones of pregnant women while the child is in the womb. They also show signs of both men and women in their body and behaviour for various reasons after birth. Over which they have no control. And for this uncontrolled cause, they have to fight all their lives. They have to be separated in adolescence for the oppression of society and family. They find a different society to live in dependence.
The hope of normal life is erased from their minds. But we could give them the gift of a normal life like ours. Except some changes in their bodies and behaviour, they are like us. They are not physically crippled, they are physically capable people. They also have a normal brain, they also have intelligence, and they also have emotions. They also hope for a normal life, they also want to do something for themselves and the society by using the creativity in themselves. Thus, arrangements should be made to employ them in respectable occupations, not begging and misdeeds.
Most of the hijras are involved in misdeeds due to the discriminatory attitude and behaviour of the society. But many of them do not like this kind of work. They fight with the society to survive with their heads held high. Those who have the support of the family can study. Some of those who do not get this support find work in garments, while many others choose to work in parlors. Those who do not get such jobs are involved in jobs like that of a fisherman, cobbler or scavenger. Even then he does not commit any misdeeds. They fight the battle of life with society and their own imperfections. They are the real fighters. We should respect them, encourage them, stand by them, humiliate someone is not a moral duty of any human being. In Islam, hijras also belong to the human community and deserve due respect and rights as human beings. Allah has created with physical perfection and imperfection. It is said in the Holy Qur'an that He (Allah) shapes you in the womb as he wills (Surah: Ale Imran, verse: 6). Man's birth and physical appearance are a complete gift of God. Thus, degrading hijras is also against Islam.
A concerted effort is needed to ensure equal rights for transgender people. Since they are able to do all the work like other people, everyone stand by their side so that they get the opportunity to do all kinds of work. It is needed to take the necessary steps so that they can be educated and employed in a respectable profession like the rest of the society. Eunuchs need to be encouraged by their parents to go to school. Scholarships need to be arranged for school-going transgender students. Adult hijras need to be provided with technical education and turned into entrepreneurs by providing credit facilities.
Bangladesh government has taken many programmes for transgender people before and after recognizing them as the third gender people. The government gave the right to vote in 2006 for the purpose of socializing the third gender and bringing them back into the mainstream of society. The ministry of education starts giving education stipends for transgender children in 2012. The purpose of the programmes is education, training, assistance and development of the hijras. For which a lot of money has been allotted. This money comes out of the government coffer but is not spent properly for the corruption of government officials. It is not possible to change anything just by allocating money, it requires proper supervision. Many non-governmental organizations are also involved in such work. They raise funds through various grants and spend on the development of hijras.
But due to lack of sufficient funds, they are not able to manage the activities as well. The government and the people should stand by such organizations. In addition to these programmes, various awareness activities need to be taken up. Educated and uneducated people should understand that transgender people are also human beings like normal men and women, they also have the right to education, jobs and everything. Everyone should be made aware of the fact that if a transgender child is born in the society, and they should not insult their parents, everyone should treat transgender people as normal human beings.
Strict laws are needed to change this discriminatory behaviour of the people and to ensure the equality of the hijras. The human race of the third sex was, is, and will be in the future. They are also the creation of the creator. So they should be accepted as a part of society without being subjected to neglect and oppression.
The writer is a contributor.