14 November, 2020

From my link stream

✭ EU proposes new rules to protect LGBTQ+ people amid 'worrying trends' | LGBT rights | The Guardian

After reading this article, I started to look at the current state of LGBT rights in various countries around the world. In many places, especially around Africa and Asia, it's still pretty frightful. Iran seems to be one of the worst (death sentences, etc.) Some countries have never had formal laws in place, but I suppose that doesn't necessarily mean that the situation is much better.

Then I started to review my knowledge of the situation of Hijras (a traditional subculture of trans people) around the Indian subcontinent. They are tolerated not just in India and Nepal, but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh (perhaps surprisingly). They are more under threat wherever Wahabi style Islam takes root. But even in India, Hijras suffer terrible discrimination/oppression, despite their protection under the law.

The places that I have encountered them in my reading are Arundhati Roi's Ministry of Utmost Happiness, where they figure quite prominently, and in Khushwant Singh's Delhi. Both of these are great books. The only time I have encountered Hijras on my travels is on buses in Tamil Nadu. They make their rounds and touch or slap people on the head as a kind of blessing and, in return, are rewarded with a few rupees.

I also discovered in Wikipedia that every year there's a festival for Hijras in the area of Tamil Nadu that I often visit. Perhaps I will visit there some time:

✭ Koovagam - Wikipedia
 is a village in the Ulundurpettai taluk in Kallakurichi district, Tamil Nadu.[1] It is famous for its annual festival of transgender and transvestite individuals, which takes fifteen days in the Tamil month of Chitrai (April/May)

Each year in Tamil Nadu, during April and May, hijras celebrate an eighteen-day religious festival. The aravani temple is located in the village Koovagam in the Ulundurpet taluk in Villupuram district, and is devoted to the deity Koothandavar, who is identified with Aravan. During the festival, the aravanis reenact a story of the wedding of Lord Krishna and Lord Aravan, followed by Aravan's subsequent sacrifice. They then mourn Aravan's death through ritualistic dances and by breaking their bangles. An annual beauty pageant is also held, as well as various health and HIV or AIDS seminars. Hijras from all over the country travel to this festival. A personal experience of the hijras in this festival is shown in the BBC Three documentary India's Ladyboys and also in the National Geographic Channel television series Taboo."

The British Raj was predictably disgusted and appalled by Hijras. The British included them in the Criminal Tribes Act, which, itself was quite a horrendous thing. It meant that just being born into a certain community made one a criminal. Millions of people became "criminal by birth":

✭ Criminal Tribes Act - Wikipedia
 criminal-by-birth laws against targeted castes was enforced from early 19th century through the mid-20th century, with an expansion of criminal castes list in west and south India through the 1900s to 1930s.[27][29] Hundreds of Hindu communities were brought under the Criminal Tribes Act. By 1931, the colonial government listed 237 criminal castes and tribes under the act in the Madras Presidency alone."

The law was repealed in 1949 after Independence, but it didn't entirely go away. It was replaced by something called the Habitual Offenders Acts.

✭ Denotified Tribes - Wikipedia
 Criminal Tribes Act was repealed in 1949 and thus 'de-notified' the tribal communities.[3] This Act, however, was replaced by a series of Habitual Offenders Acts, that asked police to investigate a "suspect's" "criminal tendencies" and whether their occupation is "conducive to settled way of life." The denotified tribes were reclassified as "habitual offenders" in 1959.