Demanding the ban on the use of the word “kojja” by politicians, a transgender rights group in Hyderabad urged the Telangana government on Wednesday, 22 February, to come up with a “special enactment” against it.
The word translates to eunuch or denotes a castrate in English, and is considered derogatory and abusive by the LGBTQIA+ community.
The demand put forward by the Telangana-based Trans March Collective came after YSR Telangana Party leader YS Sharmila used the word on 18 February against Mahabubabad BRS MLA Shankar Naik at a public rally in the latter’s Assembly constituency.
“The political leaders have made it a norm to use such demeaning terms against their rivals. It’s a political culture now. This has to be stopped, because if people’s representatives do not have respect for the dignity of the LGBTQI, such disrespect will go further in society,” Telangana Transgender Welfare Board (TTWB) member Rachana Mudraboyina told South First.
Mudraboyina, who was present at the Trans March Collective’s interactions with reporters in Hyderabad, in which various LGBTQIA+ organisations participated, added that if such terms were not banned, society would get an excuse to use these verbal abuses first and follow them up with physical abuse against LGBTQIA+ people, creating an unsafe environment.
“Using such words is not only inhuman but also illegal in the light of NALSA Vs Union of India, Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights ) Act 2019, Rules 2020,” the activists said.
What did Sharmila say?
In the video accessed by South First, Sharmila criticised BRS MLA Shankar Naik and said, “Are you not a kojja is what I’m asking. If you cannot fulfil a single promise, what else are you but a kojja?”
She appeared to be equating a lack of efficacy to being a eunuch.
She added, “You (the BRS government) failed to deliver on the farm loan waiver. Are you not a kojja? You failed to deliver on building double-bedroom houses. Are you not a kojja? You failed to deliver on jobs and unemployment allowance. What are you but a kojja? You failed to deliver on the promise of providing pattas for podu lands in 6 months. Are you not a kojja? These useless fools. Are they not kojjas?”
— Ajay Tomar (@ajaytomarasks) February 22, 2023
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Meanwhile, the Mahabubabad cops arrested Sharmila during her padayatra, Praja Prasthanam, and moved her to Hyderabad.
A case was registered against Sharmila by the Mahabubabad police under IPC Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Meanwhile, protests led by transgender activists erupted against Sharmila in Hyderabad, Warangal, and Jadcherla in the Mahabubnagar district.
In some places, the YSRTP leader’s effigies were also burnt, as demands were made for an apology from her.
As per reports, a complaint was filed with the Telangana State Commission for Women in this regard.
Extending an apology to the hijra and transgender community, YS Sharmila said on Wednesday, “If my comments hurt the feelings of the hijra community, then I extend my sincere apologies to them. My intention was never to hurt their sentiments.”
‘Such words further marginalise trans community’
Trans activist Jayant, aka Jojo, who was present at the interaction, told South First, “The LGBTQIA community has always been called names — kojja, chhakka, hijra, feminine behaviour, and whatnot. While we try to forget the personal trauma, here we have political folks who we thought would help us but are playing games with our concerns.”
He suggested that politicians need to go through a sensitisation programme to understand the LGBTQIA+ community.
“If this is the kind of politicians we have to apparently take care of us, what is the point in voting for them?” asked Jojo, who cofounded the non-profit Queer Nilayam in July 2021.
As per Mudraboyina, even though courts have asked the state to bring legislation against such practices, the latter is still inactive after 75 years of Independence. “The discrimination has not come in one day and will not end in one day. But political leaders need to stop it,” he said.