After repeatedly asking the city to repair the dilapidated road in their neighborhood, a group of transgender women took matters into their own hands and built the road themselves.
The 20 trans women all live in the Jangal Mata Deen locality of Gorakhpur, a city in northern India near the border with Nepal. For months, they requested that the municipality renovate the concrete road that stretches through the middle of their homes, but only received silence in return.
“Repeated requests to the municipal corporation to get the road constructed fell on deaf ears. Then we decided to do something on our own,” group member Rameshwari told the Hindustan Times.
The women decided to pool together money earned by dancing and blessing new-born babies to pay for the necessary supplies, designers and engineers. By May of this year, they’d earned nearly $1,500 and began work on the project.
“All of us started saving part of our daily income and kept it with our guru. Within a year, sufficient amount of money was collected for the 120-meter long road,” Rameshwari explained. “Before the road was constructed, it was a nightmare to tread on it during the rains.”
According to a local shopkeeper, the group of trans women “hired laborers, arranged building material and even roped in a private engineer for the construction of the road,” which was completed this June.
“It is wonderful,” said an anonymous engineer from the Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation. “The construction of the same road would have cost around Rs 4 lakh had the work been carried out by the municipal corporation.”
When asked by the HT about the local government’s oversight, Gorakhpur Mayor Satya Pandey said: “Somehow this area [Jangal Mata Deen] did not come to my notice. I will ask the municipal commissioner and other authorities to look into their grievances and solve them on a priority basis.”
Since India recriminalized homosexuality in 2013, physical, psychological and sexual violence against the transgender community has increased, though the police frequently don’t investigate charges. In 2014, the country’s Supreme Court legally recognized the identities of transgender citizens, and “affirmed that they should not be discriminated against on the basis of gender identity or expression.”
This ruling was codified into law in 2015 when Indian Parliament passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, which seeks to protect the welfare of the country’s transgender population.