Kathmandu, (Pahichan) Feb 9 – Transgender people and hijra activists from South Asia have urged concerned bodies to prepare a favorable policy and laws to improve health, living conditions and overall well-being of their communities in the region.
Over 60 participants from different countries as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia or Indonesia for example, including transgender women, hijra and transgender men, civil society groups, and government departments, who attended a three-day consultation meet on, ‘The South Asia Transgender and Hijra Consultation: Advancing Trans and Hijra Rights and Health’ in Kathmandu discussed about the hardships faced by the transgender community including issues concerning them while urging policymakers to support them by working on more “evidence-informed” policy and laws.
Acting Director of Blue Diamond Society Manish Dhakal attested during the meeting that there is a need of collaboration among National Human Rights Commission, government and police administration to protect transgender and to accept all around the region human diversity. Moreover, she informed that conference has been very fruitful and decisions should be effectively implemented.
“Everybody has a role to play towards equality and social justice, from government to development partners, from officials from the rule of law institutions to activists from civil society,” said Renaud Meyer, UNDP Country Director for Nepal. “Transgender and hijra groups must take a lead in advocacy campaigns or in politics in general and engage all concerned about stakeholders to ensure accountability and support the achievement of greater results to improve lives of these individuals.
Indeed, in South Asia, transgender people often find themselves pushed to the social, legal and economic margins of society thanks to pervasive stigma, discrimination, prejudice, harassment and abuse. In many places they live in fear of transphobic violence and are victims of verbal or physical strokes. This often leads to poor emotional health or well-being and behaviour patterns including risky sex, which put their life at risk.
Similarly, a UNDP report from 2012 on the health of transgender people found that in some areas of Asia up to 49 percent of this population were living with HIV. “Equality cannot be achieved through legal advancement and policies only, but also require changes in society’s attitudes and behaviour. I urge the community to stand up and take a lead“, said Minister for Information and Communication Minendra Rijal. In other words, transgender and hijra groups have to claim their rights to change the laws but also people’s thought.
The consultation was jointly organised by Blue Diamond Society, Asia Pacific Transgender Network and UNDP under the Multi-Country South Asia Global Fund HIV Programme, with support from UNAIDS, USAID, PEPFAR and the Health Policy Project. Secretary at Ministry of Health and Population Shanta Bahadur Shretha said that there have been several attempts to ensure the rights of transgender and third gender.