Jogappa-Jogamma is a transgender community belonging to Karnataka, prominent in Hubli and Belgaum, which dedicates itself to the Goddess of the Savdatti Yellamma Hill at Belgaum. The members wear a necklace made of precious stones in reverence to God. At fairs and festivals in these districts, they come together to sing religious songs and perform worship dances. They also vow to never take up begging and sex work to earn money and to always celebrate the Jogappa-Jogamma practice as a cultural tradition.
It is common for members of the community to face rejection from their families and some are even forced into marriage.
In this interview, Keerthi, who belongs to the community, spoke to Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz about the needs and demands of the community. She states that the community members are collectively deprived of the rights that all citizens deserve. They have not been issued Aadhar cards, other ID cards, or even ration cards; they do not get any recognition from the Government and are provided a meager pension of Rs. 500 per month. There are no opportunities for them to obtain an education or take up work that pays well. Their sources of income have remained unchanged – ritualistically carrying figurines of Gods and Goddesses at events, dancing at fairs, and going from door-to-door offering blessings. Leading a decent life, thus, is a difficult proposition.
The Jogappa-Jogamma community is also often denied low-cost health treatment options. Keerthi states that some facilities like health treatments, hostel facilities, etc, should be provided free of cost to them. Provision of schemes for jobs and legal services from the Government is also the need of the hour.
The denial of basic human rights to a sizeable section of the Indian society points to ignorance and Keerthi hopes to see the situation change in the days to come.
Written by Anagha Bharadwaj.