July 8, 2017, marked a milestone of a new era for the transgender community when Joyita Mondal’s white car with a red plaque stating ‘judgeship on duty’ entered the premises of Uttar Dinajpur’s Islampur court, West Bengal.
Once forced to beg for a living, mocked and rejected at a BPO she worked at, to becoming a social worker on the bench for a National Lok Adalat, Joyita emerged victorious through all odds.
The Islampur court is barely five minutes from the bus stand where she had slept in 2010, after inns refused to lodge her, because of her gender. She knew she had to fight her own battles and those of her community.
Speaking to Youth ki Awaaz in late 2016, Joyita shared, “My community comes from an area that is on the border. Transgender activists generally fight for rights in big cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi. But in our area, we are triply stigmatised, being transgender, women and from a rural area that is not centrally located.”
As an employee at a call centre of a prominent national bank, she was forced to quit in two months.
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“I wasn’t attacked physically or sexually, but I was made the butt of many insensitive jokes. People would talk about me, stare at me and make fun of me. The situation was so bad that I was completely depressed working there. I decided to quit,” she said.
A transgender activist, she is the founder secretary of Dinajpur Notun Aalo Society (DNAS) which works primarily for the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer) community in the Dinjapur area and enables them to access all social and economic opportunities equally.
She began her journey as a field worker, while her association with ‘Manash Bangla’ that works for the community in Siliguri, West Bengal.
DNAS associated every government body in the region to help get recognition for transgenders, so as to get them their social and economic entitlements like Aadhaar, ration cards and government jobs. They started a dialogue on the issue of homosexuality amongst the youth and have over 93 support groups.
Joyita and her team also set up an old-age home for senior citizens who were sex workers and had no shelter. Their project ‘Pehchaan’ carried out awareness programs in schools, colleges and elsewhere for mass reach. Their main objective was to get the LGBTQ community into the mainstream, by portraying that any specific profession should look at an individual’s talent than their sexuality or sexual preference.
Joyita’s selection for the bench had her friends and supporters flooding her Facebook timeline with congratulatory messages. Her presence on the National Lok Adalat bench along with an additional sessions judge and an advocate is one step ahead for the community to aspire to reach greater heights.
According to TOI, Joyita said she was “elated” and saw her appointment as a milestone that would send out a strong message against “gender bias” against transgender persons.
In October 2016, she was declared a Changelooms Fellow, by Delhi-based organization Pravah and declared a national youth leader by NACO, according to the Youth Ki Awaaz report.