Toilets in Bengaluru are still about binary ideas of male and female.
By Apoorva GS
There are no separate restrooms for the transgender community in Bengaluru. Thousands of non-binary people in the city face discrimination and are subjected to nasty remarks, every time they visit a toilet designated for either males or females.
“Whenever I am outside, I prefer not to drink water to avoid the urge to pee… because, what if?” said Chandini, a trans-woman, working with Payana, an NGO for gender equality and social inclusion.
Reshma, another trans-woman, said, “The images of a man in pants and a woman in a skirt marking our public bathrooms reduce gender identity down to our bodies and clothing. They strengthen gender stereotypes and disregard the existence of the non-binary people like me”.
According to the State Policy for Transgenders, issued by Government of Karnataka, measures should be taken to provide separate public toilets for transgender community.
Unaware of any such policy, P. Vishwanath, Executive Chief Engineer, Health Department, BBMP said, “I understand that they have to face terrible inconvenience, but I don’t know if there is a policy that mandates having separate toilets for transgenders.”
Niranjan, Executive Engineer, Sanitary Department, BBMP, said, “Transgenders belong to minority community. So we cannot construct the toilets everywhere in the city as there is lack of space.” He also said that he was unaware of the problems faced. He would discuss it in his upcoming meetings and take necessary actions to build these toilets.
In the meantime, people from the transgender community, continue to walk a thin line.
Chandini said, “I identify myself as a woman, but I have not undergone a sex-change operation. I am more comfortable using men’s toilets, but I can’t enter them because of my attire. If I go to use women’s toilets, people start staring at me.”
She added, “We come across at least 15-20 unpleasant comments every day. People make terrible faces when they listen to our deep, low-pitched voice. This affects our mental health. To our relief, some restaurants, cafeterias and private companies have common toilets which are more comfortable.
Reshma, Chandini and many others are fighting for their basic human rights everyday. They are subject to discrimination on a daily basis and face inconvenience due to lack of these basic facilities.
Savita, a 40-year-old trans-woman working at Microsoft, said, “Building separate toilets isn’t a problem, but maintenance is a huge task that the system is not ready to shoulder.”
Trimurthy, District Organisation Supportive Executive (DOSE) Payana, said, “We are constantly trying to contact authorities at Department of Social Justice and Department of Women and Child Welfare regarding these issues, but all in vain. Most of these officers simply ignore these complaints.”
Dr. Rituparna Sen, Researcher, Gender Studies, said, “Although the implementation of gender-neutral language and pronouns is encouraging for the third gender, yet we still have a long way to go before we finally see the dawn of equality. Unfortunately, the public bathroom has become a battleground for transgender rights.”