Ashrayan: In Hatikumrul, a transgender community’s hopes thrive with permanent addresses

A transgender for nine years, Koli lost the permanent address getting isolated from the family and society. Then the 3rd gender had to stay in rented houses for the last 16 years.

But now Koli, 25, can dare to dream of a dignified life having a permanent address at Hatikumrul (Third Gender) Ashrayan Scheme in Ullapara of Sirajganj.

Now Koli owns a home at one of the four semi-pucca barracks there. Some 20 transgenders were rehabilitated in the five-unit barracks constructed on 0.66-acres land under the Hatikumrul scheme.

The government provided houses to total 3,715 families, who are isolated from the society, at 743 barracks in 36 Upazilas of 21 districts across the country as gift from the Prime Minister in the Mujib Year marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Besides, the government in January last provided 66,189 other families with semi pucca houses, which were each constructed on two-decimal plots of land across the country as a special initiative of the Prime Minister’s Office marking Mujib Year.

The Prime Minister on January 23 last inaugurated the distribution of houses and land deeds among total 69,904 families.

Koli is not the only transgender to have benefited. Visiting the Hatikumrul site, an entire community numbering about 50 was seen growing vegetables in their houses or rearing domestic animals like cows and goats. Some of them also have sewing machines.

The 20 recipients have their friends and companions visiting or staying with them.

Koli lost her mother at the age of only two-three months and then her father –Ratan Islam, an inhabitant of Sirajganj Sadar- got married again. “My age was 9. All of a sudden I came to know I am hijra during a quarrel between my step mother and a neighbouring woman.”

Relaying the painful story of the childhood life Koli said the society stigmatized her and her peers used to avoid her company. “So, I used to stay home most of the time in a day at that time,” the transgender person.

Failing to endure with the crude reality in the society, the trans child fled the family at the age of 9 and started living in a rented house at Dhopakandi area of Ullapara upazila along with other transgender. Three persons shared a room and its monthly rent was Tk 1500.

“Now I’ve got a permanent address and house. I can cultivate vegetables in open spaces surrounding my house and rearing chicken. We can lead a good life now,” Koli said.

Pori Moni’s dream

Pori Moni, who has been transgender for 18 years, is another member of the same community as Koli in Hatikumrul. She too has a tale of humiliation faced in society just for being a transgender.

Pori Moni has a nice family with both parents alive and two brothers, but can’t stay with the family due to social stigma. “The family wants me to live with them, but I can’t tolerate that my family members lose their honour in society just for me,” she said.

Until the age of 7, the child could not identify as a genderqueer. From childhood, Pori Moni was effeminate with feminine tastes, that her family had difficulty accepting.

“One day, I fled the house after getting beaten for not dressing like a boy, when I was 12. That’s when I started living with the group of transgender,” she recalled, adding that she does still at times visit home to meet her family members.

Pori has completed schooling till grade-V, and now has a dream to be a model. She thanked the government for providing a nice house and land for her in the barrack. “The government gave us dignity by providing the house.”

Project Director of Ashrayan-2 Project Md Mahbub Hossain said the Prime Minister’s Office also implemented another scheme to rehabilitate 125 other transgender families in the barracks at the hijra Palli adjacent to Bangibecha Bridge in Dinajpur Sadar upazila under the Ashrayan-2 project.

Alongside meeting the basic needs of the transgender people, the government is training them for employment, he said.

“All the transgender people will be rehabilitated in phases. The government will take all measures for the improvement of living standards of the isolated community returning them to normal life,” said the Project Director.

According to the government estimate, there are 11,000 hijras across the country, but rights groups say the figure could be over five lakh.

The government in 2014 recognised the transgender with the identity of third gender.