The Hijra Community or transgenders in India has been prejudiced and discriminated, and have even evoked phobias of the gentry. This initiative by The Kochi Metro is a sign of hope and progress as they hire 23 transwomen to work at 11 stations in the Aluva-Palvirattom corridor. The work ranges from maintenance, housekeeping and ticket vending.
Even though the community has been part of the Indian subcontinent since ancient times, they are the most forgotten ones. They enjoyed a certain freedom until the British colonizers criminalized the whole community in the 19th century. A 2014 Supreme Court ruling granted them a ‘third gender’ status but the prejudice did not end. As a result, a majority still resort to begging or to sex work for their survival. Thus, the attempt to employ them in the Kochi Metro Rail stands as a positive step in the direction of communal harmony.
Elias George, MD of Kochi Metro Rail told The Hindu, “We would like to give members of the transgender community their rightful share in different jobs at stations. There will be no discrimination between them and women workers”.
Rashmi CR, spokeswoman for the Kochi Metro also said, “We want the metro to be not just a means of transport, but also a livelihood improvement project. We want to bring them (trans people) into the mainstream by ensuring that people interact with them every day – on their way to work, for example”.
The new employees have been trained in customer care and have taken classes in confidence improvement. One of the newly recruited, Vincy tells The Guardian,
“Trans people don’t get work, not even in big multinational companies, IT firms, not in government jobs, nothing. Even when we do get jobs, we are often made fun of. Kochi Metro is the first company in India to accept us. It is a huge achievement for us. I feel very comfortable there. The other workers know how to respect me because Kochi Metro is recognizing us.”
The reason for unemployment of the transgenders is not mainly prejudice: they often have criminal records as they are helpless to do anything but sex work. They also do not have educational qualifications as they do not get an opportunity to go to schools. The news, thus, comes as a positive venture into a progressive society where the third gender is included in the normative of society.