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Challenges for Transgender-inclusive Sanitation in India

Currently, the sanitation needs of the transgender community are addressed on the assumption that the community is a homogeneous group, and that public toilets earmarked for them address their total sanitation requirements. However, designing transgender-inclusive sanitation requires a deeper examination of the role of caste, gender, and age within the transgender community.

India has made important strides in improving access to toilets for households and communities in the past few decades. There has been an increasing recognition that effective sanitation for all needs to reflect the requirements of not only women and girls, but also, disabled, elderly and transgender persons (FANSA and WSSCC 2016). In recent years, the discrimination and violence faced by transgender persons have slowly been recognised outside of academic circles. However, the inclusiveness of the policies and their implementation remain low, and more needs to be done in terms of research and actual application. There have been incremental increases in the legal recognition of the need to provide transgender persons with legal rights to access public infrastructures, education, housing, etc. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, provides visibility to transgender persons and their legal rights. However, it has also been argued that the bill dilutes the rights-based framework (Jos 2017). As an outcome, transgender persons in India currently live under a legal, policy, and social framework where they are recognised, but have not been fully integrated into society. As a consequence of the underlying discrimination against the transgender community, toilets remain as sites of social exclusion and violence in their day-to-day lives.

An India-level study on inclusive sanitation—by the Freshwater Action Network South Asia and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council—reports the daily struggles and often difficult coping mechanisms that transgender persons apply to manage their daily sanitation needs. For example, transgender persons are exposed to sexual harassment and violence if they use the men’s toilets and are unwelcome in both women and men’s toilets as “it is widely believed that they are seeking sex work when they visit the toilets” (FANSA and WSSCC 2016: 26). This leaves them with few options and many of them continue to practice open defecation, or wait to find a safe time to use the toilets.

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Updated On : 6th May, 2019

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