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Salma Khan, The First Transwoman On Lok Adalat Panel, Says The Community Is Still Vulnerable

  • IWB Post
  •  April 16, 2018

Early this year on February 10, Salma Khan became the first transwoman to be appointed as a panel member for Lok Adalat at the Mumbai District Suburban Legal Services Authority (DLSA). She was chosen amongst 16 transgender candidates.

With the appointment, she joined the league of other transwomen who broke social barriers and became a part of the constituency, like Joyita Mondal (judge from West Bengal), and Amruta Alpesh (advocacy officer in Chattisgarh). Although the third gender is breaking stereotypes, Salma feels the community needs more support. She said, “Despite, the Supreme Court judgment in 2014 recognising the rights of transgender persons, social change has not been swift for the community and we are still vulnerable. Despite educational qualifications, many who identify as transgender do not find it easy to find employment. My appointment on the Lok Adalat panel should help others in accessing such spaces to increase our representation.”

“In a recent case, a transgender woman in Mumbai got a job at a call centre but when they learnt her identity, they told her they cannot hire her. I hope the government can pave the way by giving jobs for transgender persons so that other private offices can also not discriminate,” added Khan.

Khan, who is set to attend the panel’s second hearing on April 22, recalled her first hearing and said, “When I sat on the panel, some people stared at me in confusion but most were happy to see me there. My co-panelists and others made me feel comfortable. I am looking forward to the second hearing this month.”

Salma is among the three panelists in Court Number 1 at the Lok Adalat, which is an alternate dispute redressal system in Bandra, that mostly deals with cases of loan defaulters and other banking matters. As per the National Legal Services Authority, at the district level, each bench of the Lok Adalat should comprise a sitting or retired judicial officer, a member from the legal profession and a social worker engaged in the upliftment of weaker sections.

A postgraduate with a Masters in Social Work, Khan has worked with transpeople since the year 1986 and is currently the president of Kinnar Maa Samajik Sanstha Trust, which she founded in 2014. She grew up in Mumbai — her father worked in the RTO and her mother was a housewife —  and says she gained higher education with her mother’s support. She now aims to pursue a doctorate in law, but her next focus is to work towards the rehabilitation of older people in the community.

She shared, “I have been petitioning the state government to provide homes for aged hijras, with health support and safety. There are shelter homes for women but older members of the community have nowhere to go. These are aspects that nobody has paid attention to and I hope that the government will soon intervene with a policy,” says Khan. She also hopes to see increased representation of the community in legal spaces.

Salma doesn’t want the future generation to go through the hurdles they have gone through. She stated, “When the Indian society sees us, all they see are singing, clapping hijras who beg or go door-to-door to bless families. It has been seventy years since Independence, but no one has thought about uplifting our community. Give us scholarships, education, jobs and pensions so that we too, can lead dignified lives. We are what we are today because of the negligence of this society. The past is the past, and that is fine. But we don’t want our future generations to suffer as we did. We do not demand your pity, we only want our rights.”

H/T: Indian Express

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