After the Supreme Court declared that transgender be officially recognised as a third gender in 2014, things have been certainly looking up. Whether it is finding employment in the Kochi metro or being exempted from fees for enrolling with Indira Gandhi National Open University, the trans community has had more reason to celebrate than it did before. And now, a transwoman named Joyita Mahi Mondal, has been appointed as a judge in a Lok Adalat (civil court) in Islampur of North Dinajpur district in north Bengal. Mondal becomes the first transgender person to be appointed as a judge in India.
According to a report, the journey has been nowhere close to being easy for Mondal. She was ostracised from her family when she was younger and was homeless in 2009 after she left her home. She was briefly accepted into the Hijra community North Ninajpur and used to beg on the streets. But she was also vocal about wanting to lead a better life and to secure fellow members in the trans community their rights. Soon, she started a non-governmental organisation called Dinajpur Notun Alo Society, for the transgender community in the North Dinajpur district. This is where she met Islampur’s Deputy Collector and Magistrate, Thanduk Sherpa. Sherpa then acquainted her with former additional district judge Subrata Poley, who recommended her name to be included in Islampur’s Lok Adalat. A Lok Adalat typically comprises of three-member judicial panel which includes a senior judge, a lawyer, and a social worker, according to a report. Mondal, as a social worker, takes up one of the positions as judge.
While Mondal’s story is heartening, it’s not reason to get complacent about about trans rights. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 is still pending in the parliament. If passed, this Bill will ensure more inclusiveness for transpersons in welfare programmes and medical sectors as well as grant better social status. Till this becomes a reality, stories like Mondal’s give me reason to hope and be more outspoken about inclusiveness and equality of all genders.