Of Employment: Gender ‘O’

Posted in gender equality, society by stories of an authentic self on December 28, 2009

The Pakistan SC, after hearing a petition for rights of the marginalised eunuch community a few days ago, advised the government to employ eunuchs for the recovery of loans from defaulters, citing India as example of the same. This has been the latest in a series of measures being introduced by the Pak SC towards the social inclusion of this lot, including recognition of their “distinct” gender, registration on electoral roles, recognition of inheritance rights among others.

For a community that makes a living out of beggary, prostitution and appearances at weddings and fetes, any provision of real employment, especially by the State speaks volumes for the efforts made towards their upliftment. Consider that young males were forced to leave home when families learnt of their gender identity crisis, and consequently are denied an opportunity to acquire skills necessary for any employment at all. Consider also that in the past, even singing and dancing on the roads by eunuchs dressed as women was criminalised by the Criminal Tribes Act. Consider that eunuchs (sometimes, even those not involved in prostitution) are booked for prostitution. The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, after being amended in 1986 to make its applicability non-gender-specific, has been used to arrest eunuchs for prostituion, under S. 8, Solicitation, without evidence of solicitation on their part. So the situation we find ourselves in is that we deny them an education and thus the chances of employment, and then we deny them their means of livelihood. Worst of all is that the Original Position, if one were to engage in a Rawlsian discussion of justice in India, does not even contemplate transsexuals and the like, while choosing principles of justice that could benefit the least advantaged in society.

In this light, appointment of eunuchs for recovery of loans or compelling payment of taxes is indeed “respectable” employment. Those that argue that employment of eunuchs for recovery of loans capitalizes on society’s fear of transsexuals and will consequently perpetuate exclusion are either labouring under the misconceived notion that recovery of loans is a sophisticated form of beggary (entailing clapping and an assortment of blessings/curses), or have not understood the concept of dignity in labour, one that is absent in our social fabric. The idea is that there is dignity in every form of labour; respect and remuneration are not factors of the degree of intellect involved in the mode of employment.

It’s not a wonder that the eunuch community in Pakistan was overjoyed at the suggestion of the SC. It’s time the governments of both India and Pakistan opened up more employment opportunities, possibly in polling booths and suchlike.


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