Not as safe as house

Garima Greh, one of the 12 shelter homes for transgender persons in India, struggles for funds and the staff faces uncertain future

BOLD FASHION: Residents with Rudrani Chetri, founder of Garima Greh, in a fashion show

In August, Manpreet, a 22-year-old transman, left his home in Punjab to find a new home in Garima Greh in Delhi. His family tortured him and he was suffering from depression. His girlfriend from Delhi was also harassed and a police complaint was filed against her by Manpreet’s family for ‘brainwashing’ him.

“In the beginning, I was a bit anxious because the place felt a little alien to me. However, with time, I have become quite fond of it and I love the people here,” says Manpreet.

Garima Greh is home to around 20 marginalised genders like Manpreet. However, this shelter home that has proved to be highly beneficial for the trans women and trans men residing there, is struggling to survive.

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Bella Sharma, Programme Manager, says she has not been paid for the last seven months due to lack of funds by the government.

“This is a special initiative because it addresses concerns of the most marginalised in society. If this initiative fails, especially due to funds, there will be consequences in the sense that people from the community will think that there is no one to help them”, she says.

“Those living here have to struggle a lot in their everyday life. Even the landlords keep complaining about the delays in rent payment and sometimes even ask us to vacate the place. Now tell us, where will we go with so many people? Frankly, for the staff, sometimes it gets frustrating when you have not received your salary for months. There are no funds at all and we are just surviving in ways we know best,” she adds.

The shelter home has not received any funds since December 2021.

FRAGRANT OFFERS: Residents selling potpourri in an exhibition

Garima Greh comes under the Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood & Enterprise (SMILE) scheme launched by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to provide shelter to transgender persons with basic amenities like food, medical care and recreational facilities. Presently, there are 12 shelter homes under this scheme in different parts of the country.

The Garima Greh guidelines stipulate that Rs 36,46,500 will be granted to each shelter home per year and will cover expenses of the rent of the accommodation, food and other necessities, skill development equipment and staff salaries.

The centre in Delhi started in April 2021 and is located in Sitapuri. It is run by Mitr Trust, an NGO based in Delhi. Apart from providing shelter to the transgender persons, the programme also focusses on developing skills such as English-speaking and computer proficiency. There are beautician courses too.

The residents also have attended workshops in producing potpourri, which they sell at exhibitions. The workshops helped the residents cover their personal expenses such as make-up, hormone therapy and other everyday necessities.

Sharma is the first resident of the shelter home and says she has been immensely helped by the programme. She had to drop out of school to avoid harassment when she reached adolescence.
Although her parents were supportive, she left her home two years ago to avoid societal pressure on her family.

“I wanted to study but couldn’t. However, when I came here, I could continue my education and be self-dependent. It is because of this initiative that I can live with dignity today,” she says.

KEEPING UP: Residents of Garima Greh studying in the shelter home

Rifaaya Izma, a resident from Assam, has been living in Delhi since 2019 and would occasionally visit the shelter home. An orphaned child, she left her hometown in Assam due to societal pressure and harassment due to her gender identity. In Delhi, she worked as a customer care executive and faced a lot of discrimination in her office.

“A lot of people would judge me if I went to the girls’ washroom and I would hesitate to go into the boys’ washroom. So, there were a lot of difficulties even in situations which may seem so easy for others. When I started to dress like a girl, my house-owner asked me to vacate the house and this is how I came to Garima Greh,” she says.

Izma is currently learning a course on nail extension at a beauty parlour in Janakpuri on a scholarship and has also enrolled in a BA programme from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

Echoing similar sentiments, Punita says she left home to protect her family from social ostracisation.

“The place I come from does not know much about LGBTQ+ community. I have heard cases where people have been ostracised because of their gender or sexual identity to the point that their families were also affected. I did not want my family to go through this and thought that I should better leave this place,” she says.

She is in touch with her family and is currently going through transition surgery.

Shivani Mishra, a professional dancer and a member of Garima Greh, emphasises on the importance of easy accessibility of healthcare, education and social security for the trans community.

She has been part of Mitr Trust for the last fifteen years and is also actively involved in the Garima Greh scheme.

“Yes, there are opportunities we are finally getting from the government. However, there are basic things that we still need. Just because we come from a certain community does not mean that we should be judged from that lens only. We are also citizens of India, and like all citizens of India, we should be treated with dignity and respect. That is possible only if we have access to basic needs and means through which we can build ourselves,” she says.

Almost all the residents Patriot interacted with have been through social ostracisation or rejected by their families. Garima Greh shelter homes have proven beneficial for them yet the problem of funds leaves them with an uncertain future. To add insult to injury, the police also misbehave with them. The Quint reported that the residents of the shelter home were assaulted by the Delhi Police late on July 21.

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Shehwaaz covers community, sexuality, gender, and other social issues for Patriot.