Noor Shekhawat The Leading Activist For Transgender Rights

Noor Shekhawat: The Leading Activist For Transgender Rights

Success Stories Women

When filling out online forms, you may have noticed the gender options of male, female, and transgender. However, there was a time when the ‘transgender’ option wasn’t included in the forms. Even essential documents like birth certificates initially only had options for men and women. It wasn’t until the landmark Supreme Court judgment in 2014 that recognised ‘Transgender’ as the third gender category and was added to birth and death certificates. Despite this inclusion, transgenders still faced challenges obtaining birth certificates due to a lack of knowledge of the process. In this challenging scenario, Noor Shekhawat became the First Person in Rajasthan to have ‘transgender’ on her birth certificate in 2023.

She is also the first transgender person in Rajasthan to receive a driver’s license after the National Legal Services Authority’s (NALSA) 2011 judgement. She is a leading activist, working on documentation and education of the transgender community.

Empowering Through Advocacy, Education, and Policy Reform

Noor Shekhawat Empowering Through Advocacy, Education, and Policy Reform

Growing up in Rajasthan, where people didn’t know much about transgenders, Noor had to face a lot of pressure after her father passed away when she was only 3 years old. She went by the name Aditya Shekhawat during her school days but she had to leave it in 2011 due to constant harassment. The pain and frustration of not being able to confide made her seek refuge in the transgender community. There, she felt a sense of belonging. Working within the community, she saw that many transgenders relied on two sources of income: sex work and begging.

A turning point came in her life when she met Shivraj Gujar, a PhD scholar who was researching transgender issues. He encouraged her to continue her studies and informed her about the Transgender Act. She changed all her documents and applied to the University of Rajasthan with transgender documents and the university approved it. The Vice-Chancellor then announced his plans to make a policy for admission to transgender students.

“I was so happy that within one week, the Maharashtra and Punjab governments reserved seats for transgenders in the education department. Getting my birth certificate was the first step. Next, I obtained the Jan Aadhar card, the State’s local ID which provides 25 lakhs of health insurance,” shares Noor. “Many people have approached me to seek help in changing their documentation to continue their studies.”

“I remember an instance when a fifty-year-old transgender came to me as they wanted to complete their 10th and 12th and wanted to know how and what to do. I felt so fulfilled when I could help them. See I always say I am the first, but I don’t want to be the last,” she mentions further.

When the card process was completed, she realised that there was no portal for transgenders. Afterwards, she took the plunge to help create a portal for them. Once created, she helped other community members obtain Jan Aadhar cards. Due to her community efforts, she was named the district icon. She collaborated with the Police and started ‘Operation Smile’ to raise awareness about her community. Furthermore, she has sent a letter to the housing board in Rajasthan to include the transgender community in Jan and Nagariya Awas Yojna. These efforts can help them have a home or live on rent.

Putting Transgender Community on the Map

A person can get the birth certificate 10 to 21 days after they’re born. However, there was no proper data about the transgender community. Due to Noor’s efforts, she was included in the statistical data. This was a big step towards recognising the transgender community.

“Being a transgender, we don’t get even basic necessities. Many big organisations talk about inclusion, yet they forget to include our community. Ours is a community shunned by family and society. I want to educate myself and my community so that they know about their rights. Entering into the education sector is a big step towards inclusion,” Noor asserts.

Reminiscing about when she got admission to the University, Noor shares that getting admission into the college was no small achievement. Noor stayed adamant about being the regular student as she wanted to be familiar with everyone so that other students would see the real her. Even though she was nervous about being accepted in the beginning, it turned out to be an amazing experience.

She shares, “There was a phase in my life when my family was upset with me because my birth certificate was in the newspaper. It made me wonder whether accepting my sexuality was such a bad thing. Fortunately, things changed and now my mother is proud of me. I lost my respect and family once, but now I have them back.”

Message from Noor Shekhawat

Noor Shekhawat Nari Shakti

I request everyone to not judge a person based on their sexuality or gender. A person can be whoever they want to be. If you respect the transgender community, do it with all your heart. Because if you wholeheartedly respect the community, you will help empower them. Show genuine respect and love. Let’s create an inclusive society, an inclusive country.

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