A group of transgender women in Kerala who were hired by a rail network as part of a groundbreaking initiative have been forced to resign after they were unable to secure safe and affordable housing.
Michaela Morgan

26 Jun 2017 - 11:11 AM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2017 - 11:11 AM

Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL)  made history last month when it became the first rail network in India to offer employment to members of Kerala’s hijra (transgender) community. 

However, a group of trans women who were hired during the initiative have been forced to resign—after they were unable to find safe or affordable housing in the city. 

First Post reports that up to 11 of the 23 transgender women who were hired by KMRL have quit their roles amidst ongoing social stigma from the local community. 

One women named Amruta says her life changed for the worse after she was employed by Kochi Rail. She was forced to move away from her mother’s house after their neighbours recognised her real identity following widespread media coverage of the initiative.

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Amruta was hired by the network’s housekeeping team but has been unable to find affordable accomodation near the Aluva station where she works, paying Rs 400 (about $8AUD) per day to live in a lodge 20 kilometres away. 

“I cannot afford this as the KMRL is giving us only Rs 9400 ($192AUD) per month as salary,” she says. 

“I am unable to take up any part-time job to supplement my income as my shift keeps changing every week.” 

Faizu—who was employed by Kochi Metro—is trying to persevere with their role but says finding housing as a transgender person is challenging. 

“I have been trying to rent a house along with some of my friends ever since I got the appointment. But we were turned away everywhere. 

"All people whom we approached excused themselves saying neighbours would create trouble. Most people think we are looking for space for prostitution,” Faizu says. 

A spokesperson for KMRL says that it just isn’t possible for the network to provide its hijra employees with accomodation. The network also employees over 600 members of the Kudumbasree—an all-women anti-poverty mission. 

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“We have 628 members of Kudumbasree working in various wings of the KMRL,” says rail spokesperson CR Reshmi.

“If we give any special consideration to the TGs [transgender women], these women will also claim it. 

“It will not be possible for us to provide accommodation to everybody. We are not an employer but a facilitator.”

Transgender activist Vijaya Raja Mallika says there needs to be a fundamental shift in societal attitudes before the transgender community can achieve equal rights. 

“The Kerala government and the Kochi Metro are trying to give us an equal space in the society. But the society is still conservative. 

“The KMRL gesture will not help the transgender people unless the society changes its mindset.”