The Government of Kerala launched India’s first Gender Equality convergence center today at Kozhikode. It was inaugurated by the President Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of the Chief Minister of Kerala, Oomen Chandy and Cabinet Ministers.
Gender Park has grown out of an awareness of the critical linkages between gender equality, economic growth and poverty reduction, and to effectively address gender in national development processes. It also aims at defining critical issues, generating and garnering knowledge for developing data necessary for responsive policies that are personalized to specific socio-economic context of the sub-continent and other developing nations.
One of the first initiatives launched by the Gender Park was the ‘She Taxi’, aimed at solely empowering women. The 'G-Taxi' or Gender Taxi will be launched later this year. The programme is to ensure non-discriminatory treatment in society to the transgender community.
In his inaugural address Pranab Mukherjee said, “Gender Park initiates innovative programs like ‘She taxi’ and such which provides long-term benefits to the people. Gender Park is a platform for gender-related education, training, multi-disciplinary research and learning process which will transform into the first gender university in India.”
One of the disturbing trends in a literate state like Kerala is how it treats its transgenders. Transgenders in Kerala are either swept under the carpet in the family or forced to go out of homes as they are harassed in schools, colleges and in society, said Kalki Subramaniam, an activist, author, and an entrepreneur. She is the founder of Sahodari Foundation which works for the social, economic and political empowerment of transgender persons in India.
Subramaniam says that transgenders are marginalised not only in society but in their homes and families in India on account of their gender. "Families ostracise their children when they know they belong to a third gender. Transgenders have to encounter verbal abuse, psychological and sometimes physical violence too in their homes first and later in society. In schools, students and teachers treat them differently and children are forced to or give up studies," said Subramaniam.
Most transgenders migrate to other cities in search of jobs and end up as sex workers, said Subramaniam. “With no education and job skills, they are forced to beg,” she said.
According to the latest population census of 2011 which counted transgender people as a separate category for the first time in India, there are nearly half a million transgenders in the country. However, some activists from the community say the actual numbers might be higher. A recent survey by the Kerala state’s Department of Social Justice pegs the number of transgenders in the state at more than 25,000.
Dr PTM Sunish, CEO, The Gender Park said, “With the dedication of Gender Park today, it will focus on providing equal access to development to all genders and a model for empowerment to provide suitable space to critically evolve barriers and engage in gender awareness in the society”.
The center which has been formed in partnership with the UN, is expected to eventually transition into the first Gender University in India.
In the first phase, Gender Park will contribute learning to the global body of gender knowledge through capture and dissemination of relevant knowledge, conduct demand-based capacity development and organize short term diploma courses on gender, equality, and development.