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Transgender woman harassed by police

Police picked up a transgender woman late on Saturday night, took her to the Baguiati Police Station and taunted her about her sexuality for 9 hours, the woman said. She filed a complaint with the West Bengal Human Rights Commission today.   \n

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

12th April 2012 17:57

Alessia Valenza | ILGA Asia

Mr Anindya Hajra, the secretary of Manas Bangla, a transgender rights NGO, said “Police harassment is a regular chapter in our lives, especially in the LGBT community. It rarely gets reported.”  

Ms Diya Rai said was in a taxi on VIP Road about to go home with a transgender friend and a third passenger at around 12 pm, when two policemen pulled up and made her and her friend get out. One of constables slapped the passenger, she said, and then told Ms Rai and her friend to get out and get into a nearby auto, she said.   

Her friend was let off, but Ms Rai –who works for an NGO Pratyay Gender Trust which advocates for greater rights for transgender communities —  said she was taken to Baguiati Police Station; there, she sat on a bench, rather than in lock-up, for 9 hours, as six male police constables and two female police constables in civilian clothing made fun of her and made lewd gestures. “The room I was sitting in had a rope lying around,” she said. “For a moment I felt like hanging myself.”  
She said, “I kept asking them why they had picked me up, but they wouldn’t tell me.” She was not allowed to leave the police station, and when she needed to go tothe bathroom they made her use the toilet for women in lock-up, she said.   

They eventually released her, she said, at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Before she could leave, she said she was made to sign a “personal bond” promising never to return to that area again. A policeman demanded money from her, she said, as a reward for the fact that nobody had touched her. She said she did not pay.  
The Bidhannagar Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tarun Halder, said “she was arrested and released on bail” under section 34 of the Police Act, which lets the police remove obstructions on the street. He said that if Ms Rai has a complaint about how she was treated, she can lodge it with him.   

Mr Hajra said: “this is a case of complete illegal detention. She wasn’t given any arrest memo.” He said the police are now trying to cover up the illegal detention by bringing charges. “We demand a complete investigation of the case,” he said.    

The overnight detention of Ms Rai raises questions about whether transgender women in police custody should be granted the same protections as other women, who are not supposed to be questioned overnight at police stations. Lawyer Preetam Kundu, who works with Manas Bangla, said that at the moment they are treated like men but he “would definitely prefer” that they be treated like women. If a transgender woman is kept overnight, it increases the risk that she will be abused, he said. It can encourage “custodial violence.”