A Eunuch (Transgender) in Indian Subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, SriLanka, Nepal) lives like a bonded labour from the day she is thrown out of her parents’ home and she joins a band of Gurus. This is true for all 2 million eunuchs in India. We started working for their liberation in 2007 when we came to know of this fact about this secretive community. We felt the need to let public know about the sad part of a eunuch’s life. Thus, Salvation of Oppressed Eunuchs (SOOE), was formed in 2011 with primary objective of bringing eunuchs of to mainstream of society and to make mainstream aware of this outcaste community; living a life of servitude since two centuries.
SOOE was formed with the primary objective of providing a platform for expressing and understanding the rather unique circumstances that eunuchs find themselves in, leading to the alleviation of their problems.
Though the activities of the group have continued informally through the years, a need was felt to lend a formal structure to their activities and as a result, a Non Government Organisation was formally registered in January 2011 under the name of ‘Salvation Of Oppressed Eunuchs’ (SOOE). The organisation aims to carry on the aims and objectives of the founder members and enhance its activities, while adhering to the principles of transparency and equitable development of the eunuch community.
The organisation has been actively working with the eunuch community since 2007, when a group of professionals, who were well settled in society, felt the need to look beyond the confines of their routine existence as the means to discharging their yearning for social and humanitarian causes. Realizing the need to focus on the requirements of eunuchs as a distinct community, they started with the oft repeated dictum of ‘A sound mind in a sound body’. Activities were commenced with the organisation of a health camp for eunuchs in Virar, a distant suburb of Mumbai. During this, free health check-up by qualified medical practitioners and medicines were provided to them as the first step towards enhancing the quality of life for eunuchs. The camp also included the promotion of good health practices among them, since this would address many health issues faced by the community.
The initial success established a base upon which, the scope of activities was gradually expanded to include the provision of basic necessities, such as food and clothing, as well as arranging education classes for the promotion of literacy.
With no regular source of income or employment, eunuchs mostly earn their livelihood by begging, conferring their blessings or soliciting clients. The use of alcohol and other intoxicants is very frequent in the eunuch community as well as in clients approaching them for sexual pleasure, resulting in unprotected sex for the most part. This places them at very high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. SOOE volunteers undertook comprehensive studies of these subjects and discovered that at least a tenth of all eunuchs suffer from tuberculosis. Although no official records exist to establish the connection, it is very obvious that this is due to the presence of HIV/AIDS. SOOE organises seminars on a regular basis, in coordination with prominent health journalists and activists, to make eunuchs aware of the risks of unprotected sex.
A basic impediment to the rehabilitation of eunuchs in society in general and the implementation of a lasting solution for their issues stems largely from their exclusion from the shared social fabric. The integration of the eunuch community into general society is precluded by the ignorance of the public at large about this particular section of humanity. Most people know next to nothing about them and their reaction to the sight of these unfortunates has its origins in the fanciful, derogatory and slanderous misconceptions that have been handed down through the generations. If eunuchs are to form a part of society, then the common man has to at least possess proper information about them and realise that they are also ‘regular’ humans. By providing information about this community through audio-visual media, SOOE hopes to make the common man aware of the hardships faced by the eunuch community on a daily basis, with a view to addressing their issues.
To achieve this objective of dissemination of information, the organisation has followed a twin pronged strategy; the commissioning of:
- A book that provides relevant and comprehensive information about eunuchs and their community in India. The book addresses the social as well as medical aspects of eunuchs and contains exclusive photographs and information in order to promote better understanding about them
- A documentary about the circumstances that lead to a eunuch being driven out of his home and forced into leading a shadowy existence in this community. The film provides exhaustive and accurate depiction of a eunuch’s life in the community, deprived of any semblance of dignity and self-respect.
As a means of opening up the interactive process, SOOE organizes tours of eunuchs to various religious places like Shirdi, Ajmer, Mehsana etc. Recently, SOOE also organised a tour of about 8 eunuchs to a prominent bank’s elite branch at Nariman Point, Mumbai, in order to familiarise them with the basics of banking services.
SOOE realises that the first step towards empowerment is the development of self esteem. There is still a need to formulate and implement programs aimed at establishing eunuchs ‘on their feet’, so that they are not despised and considered as parasites. The answer lies not in the provision of largesse that is dependent upon external factors but rather in the promotion of activities and industry among eunuchs that establish a firm foundation for them to become self-reliant, address and resolve their issues internally.
SOOE proposes to promote such activities and industry by the eunuch community through the provision of a platform for identifying, implementing and managing appropriate avenues of self-sustenance in the long term. It is only by being considered as productive members of society that eunuchs will be accorded the respect and dignity that are the fundamental right of every human. SOOE organises interactive gatherings of eunuchs and members of the general society so that they are better able to appreciate the issues relevant to their communities and integration with each other.
Towards this end, SOOE invites the participation of people, first by educating themselves about this much maligned community and second by participating in and lending their support to activities aimed at the progress and development of self-reliance among eunuchs.
SOOE is managed by a Board of Advisors comprising individuals from diverse backgrounds and expertise.
Dr Piyush Saxena
Dr Piyush Saxena is a corporate professional, a naturopath, wellness counsellor, magician, thinker, writer, film director and also an actor. Above all he has a human being considerate to fellow human beings. As chairperson of ‘Salvation Of Oppressed Eunuchs’, he is pioneer in working for the cause of eunuchs and assisting them to integrate into mainstream society. He has toiled hard to bring the oppressed community of eunuchs and their day to day issues to the knowledge of authorities as well as common people. For this he has written a book Life of A Eunuch showcasing each and every aspect of a eunuch’s life. He has also made a film on the bonded life of a young eunuch wholives in a community in Virar. The 55-minute film titled "...Aur Neha Nahin Bik Payee", which documents the life of Satish who is born with indeterminate gender. Dr Saxena graduated with a BSc (Physics) and MA (Modern History) from Allahabad University. Later he got a PhD in Naturopathy from USA. His professional life commenced with working for Bank of India from 1981 to 1995 in UP. Thereafter, he joined Reliance Industries Limited, Mumbai in 1995. Currently he works for them as a Senior Vice President (Corporate Affairs) at Nariman Point, Mumbai.
A diploma holder in electronics engineering seeking a change from the routine, he followed the dictates of his heart and gravitated to Mass Media, which is considered to be a tool of change. He is an active journalist and trade unionist, who has worked closely with fellow journalists and championed the rights of the common man. As a health journalist, he discovered the fact that contrary to the commonman’s perception, eunuchs are freak of nature; the result of hormonal imbalance and not a deviant criminal community. The perception of people towards these unfortunates needs to change and this community also deserves to enjoy the benefits of free citizens. With this aim, he joined the group, seeking to educate people at large through his incisive news coverage and impartial reporting.
Heena & Shakira
Heena & Shakira are ‘Maa Pet’ hijras, i.e. born eunuchs. ‘Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches’ may be an oft quoted cliché but nowhere is this more amply and forcefully demonstrated that in their case. They have felt the unbearable and socially ignored pain of being eunuchs andthey cast their lot with SOOE, to act as someone who will hold a mirror to the face of society. Our intention at SOOE was to work for the upliftment of this outcast society but it was a Herculean task to even glean any information about the community, much less co-ordinate with the members about any issues. It was at this juncture that Heena and Shakira proved invaluable as our conduits and facilitators for opening up a dialogue with the eunuch community, as the first step towards gaining their trust. They not only provided us with insider knowledge of the community, their lives, traditions, rituals etc. but also made us aware of the issues faced by them on day to day basis. Our objective could not have been achieved without their unstinting support.
He has been closely associated with eunuchs. A Tamil by birth, he has witnessed eunuchs getting much respect in his home state. However, the condition of eunuchs in most other parts of India is pathetic, to say the least. It pained him no end that the very people who bless us are living a cursed life themselves.
This thought drove him to take up cudgels for the cause of eunuchs and our organisation depends heavily on him for bridging the gap between the common man and the Aravanis, as eunuchs are called in Tamil Nadu and other parts of southern India.
As the Manager of SOOE and an alternative therapist, he employs his first-hand knowledge of eunuchs to heal their generations old wounds.