Hyderabad: The natural thing to do when nature calls, for most people when out on the streets, is to head for a nearby public toilet. But, for the transgender community in the city, a visit to a public toilet often entails jitters, embarrassment and even harrowing stories of sexual harassment.
The city, as it is, has only around 600 public toilets for a population of one crore. And none of them are for transgenders.
“Most of us are often unable to decide if we should go where we think we should go, or where other people think we should go,” said Rachana Mudraboyina, a transgender activist and co-founder of the Telangana Transgender Hijra Intersex Samithi said.
“We have no other option but to deal with taunts, stares, sniggering and threats of violence. Also, finding a unisex toilet is rarely an option,” she said.
In 2014, when the Supreme Court accorded third gender status to transgender people and an individual’s right to determine the gender they identify with, it also included a directive for separate toilets for transgender individuals in public places including hospitals. Two years later, nothing of that sort has happened, Madhav, an LGBT activist said.
In Hyderabad, according to the Telangana Hijra Samiti, there are over 25,000 transgender people. “Seldom does society realise the trauma and agony that members of the transgender community undergo. Nor does it appreciate their innate feelings, as their minds and bodies disown their biological sexes,” Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, a transwoman, LGBT activist and public policy scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said.
The city’s lack of public toilets, not just for transgenders, but for the general public as well, with just 600 public toilets, also violates guidelines of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (SBA) initiative by the Centre, activists say.
“All government policies for welfare of gender minorities are meaningless if we cannot guarantee even a toilet,” said Mogli.
Transgender activist Shashank (name changed on request), who identifies himself as a man but was assigned female sex at birth, says venturing into toilets reserved for men was a risky exercise. “It was a struggle. There were times when men threatened to attack me,” he said.
Transgender people also feel that unisex toilets might not serve the purpose as they could lead to more cases of harassment. Single-seat automatic toilets that are made for one person at a time to use are what they feel safe about. “We can use them without fear of people barging in or being stared at,” a transgender activist said.
Incidentally, information collected by groups that study transgender issues in Hyderabad show that most assaults on transgender people occur in public parks and toilets.