Transgenders in Kerala? Church offers support for Kerala’s transgender people

Shawn Sebastian, Kochi , in  UCAN News, January 3, 2017

Priests, nuns act to combat discrimination, exploitation of the community

(In the pic: Priests, nuns and lay people honor transgender person Vijaya Raja Mallika during a function in Kochi, Dec. 12. The Church in Kerala has formed a group to work for such people, in what is considered the first such Church initiative in the country. (Photo provided by Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council)

James Kottor(Note: Are there that many transgenders in Kerala? Do you know what is called “Afganistanism”? It is also called “farther-franker-view”. For people in the west ‘Afganistan’ is very far away and they publish any unbelievable stories happening in Afganistan, with additional embellishment of their own to make it eye-popping. If the same is reported from their own country they won’t publish it, proving they are not prepared for a “nearer franker view”. We are all prone to this defect: ‘Frank, when it is about acknowledged ‘barbarians’ or ‘loose-living’ westerns! The moral is that we should be equally subscribers of “nearer-franker-vew” as we are of “frather-franker-view”.

So we publish this story about ‘unbelievable number of transgenders’ in Kerala. Standing in the middle of the picture above in red is Vijaya Raja Mallika, a  transgender, in the midst of Priests, Sisters and laity, among whom is ‘Sabu’ of ‘Love and Care’ at the extreme right, I personally know.

Kerala, the most literate state in India, loves to be with the most advanced as well as the backward peoples of the world. They love the extremes, not the middle although the approved maxim says: ‘Virtue stands in the middle’ (Virtus stat in medio) Thus the Catholic Church hierarchy in Kerala is out and out Right-leaning and the laity in general is left leaning, (with Francis, “who am I to judge”)  providing an entertaining scenario for critics to watch and relax.

So for information the idea of a residential school for  trans- gender people is  a world first happening in Kerala; it is first of its kind in the country; there are about 500,000 transgender people in India; Vijaya Raja Mallika is a leading transgender activist in Keral; Mallika worked for 3 months for the pastoral needs of transgeners in Bombay Diocese; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay is one of the outspoken supporters of the pastoral care for gay people.

Yes Francis was the first to speak up in support of gay people. But there is much to be explained to people who are deeply buried in the old belief, that it is a mortal sin, that they lived in Sodom and Ghomora destroyed by fire and brimstone by God for their sins. Old beliefs die hard and so people have to be awakened to new truths with utmost caution. james kottoor, editor)

The church in Kerala has formed a group of priests, nuns and laypeople to respond to the pastoral needs of transgender people. Formed in Kochi under the aegis of Pro-Life Support, a global social service movement within the church, the ministry is significant as it is one of the few outreach programs for the transgender community by the institutional church in India.

"The whole church has a big role to play," said Father Paul Madassey, who is in charge of Pro-Life Support for the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC). He noted Pope Francis had talked about the need to give "pastoral care to the LGBT community."

"There is an active sex racket from north India eyeing transgender people in Kerala. They are trying to exploit the discriminatory situation they face," said Fr. Madassey.

India has an estimated 500,000 transgender people. They are often ostracized from their families and without adequate state support in terms of employment, health and education, end up on the street begging for money or are exploited in the sex trade.

In mid-December, Sisters of the Congregation of Mother Carmel offered their buildings to form an exclusive school for dropouts among transgender people, considered the first of its kind in the country. The nuns offered their venue after at least 50 building owners declined to let out their buildings, indicating the discrimination prevalent in the society, says Father Madassey.

Earlier this year, Caritas India, the social service wing of the Catholic Church, announced a program to fight such discrimination. Vijaya Raja Mallika, a leading transgender activist in Kerala, is pioneering a three-month pilot school for transgender school dropouts in Kochi. Mallika said the "church has been very supportive" to their struggles. "Religion plays an important role in social and behavioral change at the grass-roots level," said Mallika.

"We don't stand for exclusion but stand for inclusion along with education and employment support from society and the state." Mallika has worked in the past with Bombay Diocese for about three months to support the pastoral needs of transgender people there.

Mallika calls the idea of a residential school for transgender people a world first. It will be opened at Kochi on Dec. 30. The school will follow a National Open School Curriculum and will conduct classes, enabling students to finish class 10 and 12 examinations.

"The school will cater to those transgender people who had dropped out from schools in their early age due to various reasons," said Mallika, noting that many transgender children undergo psychological trauma at school which forces them to abandon education at an early age.

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