By Durga Chakravarty
New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) Motherhood is the state or experience of having or raising a child. Transgender activist Gauri Sawant, who has not had an easy ride in bringing up a daughter, says motherhood is beyond gender.
Gauri adopted her daughter, now 16, when she was left orphaned in 2001 after the death of her mother, who was a sex worker.
Her mother died of HIV. Her grandmother had decided to sell her to a dealer in Sonagachi, the notorious red-light area in Kolkata. But Gauri wanted to save her life and decided to adopt her. But her road to motherhood was full of bumps.
“It was very difficult because people used to think that the transgenders will take the girl for sex work, they will misuse the girl… People have that mentality. When you walk with a girl, holding her hand…. People had the view, ‘What is this little girl doing with a eunuch’,” Gauri told IANS.
How did she fight the mental block?
“When you are walking with a girl, you have to behave like a woman, which all transgenders won’t do. Ek kapde ka sense hota hain, you can’t show your bust and walk on the street (There is a way of wearing clothes, you can’t flaunt your bust). You won’t drink or chew paan (betel). There are a lot of things,” recounted Gauri, who last year featured in an ad by Vicks based on her life.
She came together for the brand’s new #TouchOfCare campaign launch here earlier this week.
According to Gauri, in life, every relationship teaches you how to behave. Her daughter is “teaching me to be a mother”, she said.
Born as Ganesh Suresh Sawant, Gauri underwent a transition through Humsafar Trust. She started her own NGO, Sakshi Char Chowghi, that helps transgenders and people with HIV/AIDS.
How would she describe the life of a transgender in India?
“Transgenders are mentioned in Hindu mythology. Being a king, the person can be a king when he is sampurna (complete) with two bodies….. Then why are we (transgenders) on the street? Why am I begging? Why am I doing sex work on street,” Gauri asked.
She says it has been difficult, but it also depends on one’s upbringing.
“My parents brought me up and groomed me… I am a devotee of Swami Vivekananda… it is my social responsibility to give back to the society. In 2014, I was the one to file a petition in the Supreme Court (for adoption rights of transgender people). That was my fight to get justice for my community.”
She said that after getting justice, it was her “social responsibility that not only transgenders can work for transgenders, but also that they can work for the other society”. By other, she means heterosexual society.
Gauri says the life for transgenders in India has not changed for the better, after India’s Supreme Court recognised them.
“Sex education and gender equality should be there. The gender bracket should not be there. We are all equal,” said Gauri, who is overjoyed with the Supreme Court’s judgment of repealing Section 377, decriminalising homosexuality.
“I always say, better late than never… And if you see the sculptures in Khajuraho, homosexuality is up there. This is no ‘Western’ concept.”
(Durga Chakravarty can be contacted at [email protected]