Transgender claims flat denied on grounds of sexuality & gender, petition filed

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Joe Paul, a 28 year old is a transgender from Kolkata who works as a freelance ad-film director had recently moved into a MHADA flat in Jogeshwari around June 12th. Paul had signed a contract for 11 months. According to reports, she was assured by her broker Jehangir that she would face no discrimination on the grounds of her sexuality and gender. Based on the assurance she entered into a 11 month contract for the said flat and has spent considerable time , money and energy in renovating the flat.

But, Joe was shocked as she was later asked to vacate the flat as the owner felt it was a “family society“ and “gay people“ living in the area would lead to objection by other neighbours.

A petition has been filed on the matter by lawyer and activist Shehzad Poonawalla to the National Human Rights Commission in Maharashtra and also to Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment.

As per the petition, “The reference to her(Joe Paul) being “gay” is obviously mistaken with her being a transgender. Either way, it is clear from Joe’s testimony and her on-record submission to the Times Of India that she has been discriminated on grounds only of her sexuality and gender and is being denied housing. She has reportedly also told the ToI that she was feeling “suicidal” after facing such humiliation and discrimination. Ms. Joe has faced such discrimination and harassment on earlier occasions too.”

The petition also states that the broker Jehangir, on the other hand claimed that the owner only had a problem with the “single” status of the tenant and that it was his fault that he had forgotten to check the matter with the owner before leasing the said flat to Joe who happens to be single. He has also promised to pay her back the money she spent on doing up the flat as well as the brokerage she paid and has promised her to find a new place.

Joe has completely refuted the claims of Jehangir and has said that Jehangir confirmed to her friend and a witness to the entire rent agreement, one Brajesh Tiwari, that the owner had an issue with Joe Paul’s gender.

Speaking about the issue, lawyer and activist Shehzad Poonawalla said, “Despite the Constitution not defining the term minorities (and allowing it to have a liberal and wide interpretation), the Central Government through its notification dated October 1993, acting under section 2 of the National Commission of Minorities Act 1992 has restricted the ambit of the term minorities to only include “ Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and now Jains.” This restricts the NCM from pursuing cases and safeguarding statutory and constitutional rights of other vulnerable groups and minorities like gender and sexual minorities, eg. LGBTs who surely deserve such protection.”

Though the owner’s representative stated that there was no objection to Joe’s gender or sexuality and she would be allowed to live there after certain formalities are completed, the incident comes at a time when there have been fair amount of cases pertaining to denial of housing based on religion and other personal orientations. The petition also reiterates that if this incident is true, then it is a blatant violation of the spirit of the Constitution that mandates equality through Article 14. It also amounts to a breach of contract but more importantly a violation of Joe Paul’s fundamental civil and human rights.

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