Breaking Barriers: Dr Manish Jain’s Fight for Transgender Rights in India

Millions of Indians identify as transgender but still face significant challenges and discrimination in many areas of life, including employment, healthcare, and housing. 

The fight for transgender rights and acceptance continues today.

One of the well-known people fighting for the cause of transgender is Dr Manish Jain, Executive Director of Kineer Services – an initiative to empower the third gender and other sexual minorities with employment opportunities.

“In a country filled with prejudice against the transgender community, where from childhood your parents teach you to stay away from a transgender, how do you expect work environments would be made trans-friendly?” said Jain while talking to UPDEED.

To worsen the issue, complications with documentation, non-availability of healthcare benefits vendors, no clarity on workplace policies, and no attempts to sensitise one existing team make matters worse, he added.

But what led Jain to think and work in this direction?

It starts from an incident….

In some of his interviews, Jain reminds him of his rude behaviour with a transgender collecting alms at the traffic light. However, he just got a smile and blessings in response. This guilt remained with him.

In 2018, fueled by a desire to bring the transgender community to the forefront of society, he made the bold decision to leave his private job and establish Kineer Services. His vision was to create new opportunities for the community and promote their inclusion in mainstream society.

Jain believes society is unjust towards the transgender community and deals with disrespect towards them.

To gain respect, one needs to prove themselves. To prove oneself, one needs to get an opportunity. How does one prove oneself if one is denied all opportunities? 

“The challenge with the transgender community is that the so-called civilised society has left only begging and skin trade as avenues for them to prove themselves. These avenues can come with sympathy but never respect,” said Jain.

Hence, Kineer Services was born with the aim of providing opportunities for members of the transgender community by offering their unique skills to interested private firms for recruitment. 

The impact

The organisation has been working towards uplifting and mainstreaming the marginalised transgender community in India. 

“Our efforts under project Trans-formation have led to the skill development and job placement of over 450 transgender members throughout the country and has earned us recognition from several organisations, including the Delhi-based World’s Greatest Records,” said Jain.

Trans-formation is an initiative for skill building, training and placement of transgender members with inclusive companies. The system works more on reverse integration wherein firstly, jobs are identified with MNCs, JDs formulated, and then training begins for the community members who match the recruitment criteria. 

The training is free for the members with assistance from the CSR funding of like-minded companies. Other initiatives of the organisation include,

Parivartaan ka Teeka: Free vaccination for the entire community across India has been initiated under this project in association with Serum India and Apollo Hospitals. Also, medical and health checkup camps are organised under this initiative. The initiative has seen tremendous success and has been covered by all leading news publications.

Forgotten Families: The community has been affected very badly due to the pandemic as all possible sources of income were shut because of covid. Practices such as begging and sex work had also stopped. During this period, Kineer initiated the Forgotten Families ration kits assistance drive. 

Jain said, “We have assisted over 5 lakh members with rations kits across the country and have been showcased as Bharat kay Mahaveer by the discovery channel for our efforts in ensuring the community does not starve.” 

Kineer packaged drinking water: To create dignified employment, Kineer has launched Kineer packaged water, wherein the factories are manned and managed by community members. The water is available in the B2B segment and boasts prestigious clients such as – Vistara Airlines, Lalit Hotels, Barclays Bank, Bajaj, Sodexo, JLL, HCL, Serum Institute and many others. 

Beti Ki Shaadi: Kineer has also initiated drives for wedding assistance to brides-to-be facing financial difficulties. Over 58 girls have been assisted to date for their weddings.

Apart from these, Kineer recently initiated its Trans Athletes Federation, which will support transgender athletes; the first-ever Trans Cricket league match was held in Delhi in December 2022.

Way Forward

According to Jain, Kineer regularly conducts sensitisation sessions for corporates to understand and bring about a change in their workforce to become inclusive. Many companies have increased their profits by collaborating and making their workspaces more friendly and happy.

Talking about the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 – Jain believes that laws are only as strong as the enforcing agencies. Making a law does not mean that it gets implemented. Registering an FIR for regular citizens for any concern is a challenge; how would a transgender get a say in this? 

The best way to judge the strength would be to file an RTI to know how many trans members have registered complaints. The answer would clarify how the bill has changed Trans lives, he added.

The Parliament passed the law to end discrimination against transgender persons in accessing education, employment and healthcare and recognise the right to self-perceived gender identity.

Although the bill has given legal approval to marriage and adoption, but these do not even qualify as the top ten burning issues in the lives of a trans persons. 

We need to understand and work on fundamental rights first. The fight is still about – Roti, kapda and Makan (food, clothes, and shelter), concluded Jain.

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