I was witness to a very unpleasant incident a couple of weeks back while I was seated at the front desk of a shop.
A Eunuch had come to the shop asking for some money and the men who were gathered in the vicinity made gestures and uttered words that would make a sailor blush.
I could not help but compare this to balking at a handicapped person or uttering profanities at the so called lower classes.
The former has everybody's sympathy while the latter has legal remedy .
Actually it took me all this time to do this post because I was scrutinising all related (legal) Acts and wanted to see if there is atleast one section under which they can seek remedy.
No points for guessing....the result I came up with is "Zero".
I found some Act that mentioned them and was very hopeful until I understood what it was enacted for.
The 1897 amendment to the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, which was subtitled "An Act for the Registration of Criminal Tribes and Eunuchs". Under this law, the local government was required to keep a register of the names and residences of all eunuchs who were "reasonably suspected of kidnapping or castrating children or committing offences under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code".
Something similar to the rowdy-sheet that the police maintain.
Though further enquiries revealed that this act is not followed in the present day.
If not anything else there should be a law in the country similar to
"The scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes Act" , which protects them and penalises wrong-doers who
"intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a SC or ST in any place within pubic view".
Why can't the eunuchs be placed in a similar category?
Are they not treated with more repulsiveness?
The place with the most scope for abuse is the police station where the police, on a regular basis, violate all canons of civilised behaviour by physically, sexually and verbally abuse and humiliate them.
The discrimination and violence that the Eunuchs face show that it is high time that both the government and the human rights movement in the country begin to take this issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Armed with all this information I discussed this with many Junior Advocates (albeit their discomfort discussing this taboo topic) . When I asked why no public interest litigation was filed for them, they did not have one good word for the community. If on the one side people ridicule them , there is another set of people (mostly men) who are petrified of them.
The gist of the discussion was that the Eunuchs are a confused ,
sex-starved ,obsessed and ill-mannered set of people in their opinion.
The police in turn reels off a long list of atrocities that the Eunuchs specialise in.
The law that is used most to threaten the Eunuchs, as well as the homosexual community in India, is Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" even if it is voluntary.
They are actively invloved in brothel-keeping, trafficking, pimping and soliciting which fall under ''The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act ".
So legal system is very apprehensive about giving them protection as this will lead to misuse.
There were many who plainly told me that Eunuchs do not need any protection and if there is any need , it should be the other way round.
So I understood that there are many faces to this problem and there could not be any remedy by just creating a law to protect them.
What needs to be done is effective tackling of the problem from multi-directions. A consolidated effort will be more effective.
There may defenitely be problems faced by the law enforcement authorities from this community. But what can we expect from a community that is shamed , disgraced and most of all shunned from the society for ages.
It is such a pity that they are not accepted by their own families.
They need to be treated as human-beings, be given equal oppurtunities and employment benefits and benefits that handicapped people are entitled to.
The Govt needs to set up schools in each State if not in each district where these people can be taught how to deal with their handicap.
They can be taught to earn a living legally and in a fulfilling manner.
The important aspect is to give them counselling in handling their sexuality.
They need to be taught to dress down, tone down their speech and desist from the common practices like 'clapping'.
They should work towards 'mainstreaming' themselves, and focus on expression of their hidden talents that can contribute to them being accepted as citizens in their own rights.
The NGOs can also conduct work-shops to educate them and bring about awareness in them.
The society in turn needs to be a little more tolerant and understand that its not their fault to be born with such a great handicap.
If the handicapped are facing physical problems these people are facing both physical and psychological problems.
The public cannot be ignorant or insensitive.
Even children need to be educated that there are people with differences and it should not come in the way of their right to be treated with respect.
They need our sympathy and support not ridicule and shame.
Times are changing and with growing education and awareness I am sure it is not a great feat to live in relative harmony and tolerance for different kinds of people with mutual respect and regard.
Afterall have'nt we achieved what had to be done for the physically challenged ?
Well, I for one am very hopeful about the future.