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Indian Activists Visit HRC, Share Challenges Facing Indian Transgender Community

Last week, HRC hosted eight advocates working on transgender issues in India at our office in Washington, D.C. The activists were visiting the U.S. as part of a State Department cultural exchange program with the aim of “understanding transgender issues in the U.S.” The activists hailed from a variety of states around India and their work spanned HIV prevention and care, mental health counseling, transgender rights, filmmaking and the arts. They came to HRC to learn about the state of the transgender movement in the United States and to share perspectives about the transgender movement in India.

Jay Brown, an openly transgender leader at HRC, and Sarah McBride, who was the first openly transgender person to speak at a major U.S. party convention and a member of HRC’s staff, talked about key developments in the transgender movement and notable victories in the U.S. Brown and McBride touched on the unprecedented visibility recently enjoyed by transgender Americans and how it has unfortunately been accompanied by a backlash in states such as North Carolina.

Sadhana Kinner, an activist from the eastern state of Odisha, praised the Indian Supreme Court verdict in April 2014. The decision granted transgender people legal status but Kinner criticized the slow implementation of the verdict. She noted that transgender people, some of whom identify as third gender or hijra, have always been more visible in Indian society compared to LGB people but they struggle to find jobs and are often confined to sex work, begging and the entertainment industry. Jaya Annamalai, an activist from Tamil Nadu, also said transgender Indians living with HIV face intense stigma.

HRC’s work to improve the lives of transgender people was detailed by Gabe Murchison and Tari Hanneman. Hanneman explained how HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index has worked with health systems to adopt transgender-inclusive policies and train their staff to work effectively with transgender patients. Murchison highlighted HRC’s work to prevent violence against transgender people and explained how HRC gives youth-serving professionals, including educators and child welfare workers, information and resources that help them support young transgender people.

Earlier this year, HRC joined Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, who was a member of the visiting group, at a workplace inclusion summit in Hyderabad to discuss the need for transgender-inclusive policies for workers in U.S. multinationals in foreign countries. To learn more about HRC’s work around the world, click here.