September 2015


This document captures the essence of the comments made by the speakers during the release of the report on the Status of the Human Rights of Transgenders in Karnataka in 2014. Held on August 13, 2015 at the Jain University auditorium in Bangalore, it was chaired by Ms. Jaimala, MLC Karnataka and also chairperson of the state commission on transgenders and sex workers. The other speakers were Akkai Padmashali, human rights activist and founder Ondede (an NGO in Bangalore that advocates for the rights of children, women and sexual minorities), B. T. Venkatesh, human rights lawyer and former SPP, Karnataka High Court, Advocate from the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) and Aasha Ramesh, feminist and human rights activist.


Akkai welcomed everyone with the words, “Today is not a day of celebration as we will hear about the human rights violations of transpersons in Karnataka and in 2 specific incidents that occurred last year. November 25, 2014 was a blackmark as 47 transpersons who were bathing, eating or doing other activities were forcibly taken to the Beggars colony in Bangalore on the orders of then police commissioner, M. N. Reddi due to an altercation with a transperson the previous day. They were raped and private parts were injured. A few months prior to that, Richa, a transwoman from Mysore was falsely accused of murder and were released after 3 months when the High Court found that they were not guilty”.

“When Prerna first approached me about doing her internship with Ondede and preparing this report, I was pleasantly surprised by her determination and commitment”, Akkai said. 3 years back, I had asked her if I could shake hands with her as many people hesitate to befriend transpeople. Prerna Kodur, an undergraduate student of law in Bangalore and an intern with Ondede who authored the report shared, “The last month was incredible for me. I met some wonderful people whom many of us marginalize. I was also like that as nobody told me not to discriminate against transpersons. Higher education is unavailable to them. Transpeople face torture and atrocities from the police, regularly. Shanti, a transwoman who was gang raped by 9 people cannot complain to the police about it they will most probably tell her that as a sex worker, she should accept it. Manya, a graduate in hotel management is begging as she has no job.”


Richa, a transwoman from Mysore recalled how she spent 3 months in jail after being falsely accused of murder. Greeting the other speakers and every one as sisters and brothers, she narrated, “4 of us Mangalamukhis were returning from a dance event during the Ganesha festival in Mysore one night in 2014. One of us was visiting from Bangalore to meet her mother for the Gowri Ganesha festival to give her a sari. When some young men confronted us and asked where we were going, we told them that our house was nearby. They kept staring at us menacingly, followed us home and forced us to open the door saying they wanted to discuss something with us. We told them to leave as it is a massage centre. They underwent a massage for which they paid us 500 rupees and then asked us for more massages without extra payment. They then ransacked the house, stole 25,000 rupees damaged our belongings and assaulted us. Our neighbours intervened to assist us but five of the seven men escaped by 2 am.

When we went to the police station to register a complaint stating that we are also women, we were asked to return later promising that a few of the culprits’ possessions were seized. We returned to the police station around 10 am but our attackers came only around 12 noon. They said that they did not want us in that neighbourhood and the owner of a local dhaba (eatery) had told them to force us to leave. Based on the request of the youth, we did not register a complaint and went back home.

We approached the dhaba owner saying that he could have talked to us directly as we had a cordial relationship earlier. 4 young men from Ashodaya, an NGO who came to help us were also attacked by the youth. The father of one of them who is physically challenged was also present, died of cardiac arrest on seeing his son bleeding. Immediately we were locked up by Pavan, the dhaba owner and blamed for the death and arrested.

We were ill treated, groped and abused at the police station. A crowd also gathered due to which the police asked us to stay inside overnight. The false news also spread through Kannada television channels quickly.  As we were accused of murder we were transferred to the Mysore central jail where there was a question if we must be kept in the women’s or men’s cell. Others also jeered at us. Luckily, after 3 months, the court concluded that the old man died of a heart attack and filed a B report. However, my father a cancer patient who had not reconciled with my gender identity, passed away on hearing of my incarceration. We request society not look at or talk to us disrespectfully. Please treat us like human beings”.

Rakshita, a young transwoman based in Bangalore mentioned briefly how the transpersons who were placed in the Beggars’ Home in November 2014 were harassed and humiliated. She recounted a few of the incidents when she was also gravely insulted by the police and other people. “I was not allowed to open a bank account under the premise that transpersons are robbers. When I questioned that, I was advised to approach the police. But the attitude of the police also hurt me. I declared that as an insult to their profession.

We are ostracized by our family, insulted by society and harassed by the police. Please listen to us and let us choose our gender. Yesterday, when I went to get my aadhar card, the relevant government employee asked me if my gender should be male when I specified female. We are being denied jobs due to lack of qualifications by people who prioritize physical appearance. I had to discontinue studying for my undergraduate degree as my lecturer humiliated me for my gender identity. I opposed it but in vain. Thus, people like me are pushed to do sex work and begging by society”, she ended amidst tears.

Expressing his pleasure at being there, BT Venkatesh said, “I am happy at how Akkai and others have grown and are open to sharing their stories. I have been with this community for 17 years and am also part of many human rights groups here and nationally. It is pertinent to note that PUCL Bangalore brought out one of the earliest reports on the harsh realities of transpersons. The court is a seat of campaigning. Change is happening and perceptible. Around 15 years ago, any phone call I received after 10 pm would be from a gender minority community member in trouble. It happened almost daily. I designated a junior colleague who had to visit the police station regularly at night to assist transpersons. The stigma attached to sex work is very painful. However, I understand why transpersons are in sex work.

As a child, I was fortunate to grow up in a small town in Karnataka. There, I often witnessed jogappas who comforted women who poured out their woes to them. They did the function of present day counsellors. Transpersons are often accused of causing all possible bodily injuries that can be implicated under the IPC as per the whim and fancy of the police officer. The behaviour of police seems to be encouraged by the attitude of the judges who address undertrials based on their socio-economic status. A transman whom I defended some years ago was raped for 7 continuous days in the police station. Further he was raped for another 15 days when he continued to be in jail.

I know people who are still scared to come out with their gender identity and sexual orientation. 10% of population tend towards homosexuality as per international studies. However, the violence against them is very high. Reports must continue to be published and discussions should be held about sexual minorities. It is important that this message should go. We are advancing in many areas perhaps but we do not want to discuss sexuality. In the land of kamasutra, we are regressing as far as sex is concerned. We must be humane. Otherwise we will be living in an uncivil society”.

Soon after, Akkai remarked to the audience, “You are a part of society where we must discuss sexuality, a beautiful word. People have different sexual orientation and gender identity. It is simple and natural”.

Advocate noted, “The concept of a universal family is not being followed. We have no tolerance but have misguided notions about certain classes of persons. When we hear the word transgender, we immediately associate it with activities that we would avoid. Their gender or sexual orientation is not the fault of homosexuals or transpersons. Although many awareness and sensitization sessions are being held for the police and judiciary, they are insufficient as the violence and harassment of gender and sexual minorities continues. The judiciary in Karnataka appointed a transperson as a clerk. We are not giving them jobs that they desire but criticize them for doing what they do instead. When we assemble here to discuss these issues, we hope that will be many more such reports. The poet, Kuvempu said that every person has the right to live with equal dignity. Basavanna the great social reformer also advocated for human rights of all. KSLSA is ever ready to assist all deprived classes of people. We were the first to conduct a sensitization session for the judiciary on transpersons”.

Following that, Akkai appreciated that Sana, a transwoman supports 40 disadvantaged children while Megha a transwoman also assists four children. She added, “While we oppose violence from society and state we also do not support discrimination within the community”.

Aasha highlighted, “Gender is what you choose it to be like Akkai said. I am glad that many youth are present today as they will take forward this important message to their families where there may be stigma or minimal understanding regarding transpersons. Tamil Nadu was the first state to have a transgender welfare board while Karnataka may be the first state to have policy for transpersons. We must fight for a national policy for transgenders”.

Akkai we are happy and grateful that Jain University, Garment Labour Union, Concerned for Working Children, other labour unions, child rights groups and women’s rights organizations and other institutions are here and supporting us outside too.

Jaimala began her speech by appreciating Akkai’s commitment. She said, “I was moved by the words of Richa and Rakshita and distressed at the realities that they shared. I agree with B. T. Venkatesh and also tell legislators and change their language and behaviour towards transpersons. I have been asking for support systems for sexual minorities. A painful fact is that we attained so called freedom 68 years ago but there are people who are not free in their own land. This is a country of many great souls but it is inhuman that sexual minorities should suffer so badly. I apologize to all sexual minorities on behalf of the society that rejects and humiliates them. They are also born like us. It is shameful that anyone should treat sexual minorities so terribly. It is their ignorance.

While I am happy at the Supreme Court judgment of April 2014, I condemn those who still misbehave with transpersons awfully. I am happier at Tiruchi Siva’s private member bill and am sure that Lok Sabha will pass it. I appreciate the work of Prerana and Gowthaman who have given the social and legal interpretations of the bill in the report. I wish that this report goes to all educational institutions and everyone who needs it. We all have rights in the constitution but have forgotten to claim them. I am confident that the Chief Minister and Ms. Umashri, Women and Child Development Minister, GoK will support the creation of the policy on transgenders.

I condemn the attitude and acts of the police towards transpersons. Any misdemeanor towards anyone is a human rights violation. Their bias in any issue is inexcusable. No one is above the law. Transpersons can be arrested if they commit crimes but not because they are transgenders. Your advocacy campaigns are right. We must empathize with transgenders because our may be gender minorities in our families. Such reports and discussions are valuable inputs for us”.


In conclusion, Akkai suggested that police academy and judicial academy should also have gender sensitization sessions under the stewardship of the MLC. Not everyone is like Justice Manjula Chellur or Justice (retired) A. P. Shah or B. T. Venkatesh. Section 36A of the Karnataka Police Act must be repealed. Please do what you can about IPC Section 377. She thanked Prerna and family, Gowthaman, B. T. Venkatesh and Radio Active for their valuable support. The event ended after Rakshita delivered the vote of thanks to the Government College of arts and science, Department of Journalism, Jain University, St. Joseph’s College of Arts of Science, Pinky Chandran, Director Radio Active for the photography and Ramya G, Radio Active for designing a Facebook page for the event.

Compiled by Pushpa



On Saturday, 18th July 2015, Ondede and Radio Active hosted a discussion (in English and Kannada) on gender, sexuality and forced marriages, that attracted over 70 participants that included activists working for the rights of women, children, sexual minorities, researchers, writers, film makers, lawyers, theologists and youngsters studying law, social work and other subjects Welcoming everyone, Akkai, founder Ondede (meaning convergence) introduced it as a growing organization that has been focussing on the rights of women, children and sexual minorities, challenging patriarchy. She said that Ondede has held conversations between people of various identities on the notion of family, age of consent, gender and sexuality, etc. over the last few months.

Setting the context for conversations, Akkai highlighted how the issue of forced marriage in Indian society reentered the public discourse owing to two specific incidents. One of them was the suicide committed by a doctor who worked in AIIMS, Delhi because of harassment from her husband who was supposedly gay and the case of a gay man employed with Infosys in Karnataka arrested under IPC section 377 after his wife found out that he was gay. She added, “Indian society often blames women for marital discord or problems in any other relationship. Women are suppressed sexually here. Married women have children but after 3 years or so their spouse may divorce them. However, some sexual minority persons also are compelled to marry even when their sexual orientation is known. Hence, a few of us decided to hold this conversation between various people”.

After everyone present introduced themselves briefly, Shakun, a long time activist at Vimochana, started with the question, “What is marriage?”

The following were some of the responses from the participants:

“Marriage is a bond between a woman and a man”.

“It is an institution where 2 people agree to share their life with each other”.

“Marriage is an unnecessary attempt by a major part of society, government (law) to impose its notions on others”.

“History has defined marriage as a union. Some are trying to redefine it”.

“It is a bond between 2 people”.

Shakun: Some women and men find marriage to be a business transaction. We live in an economic world. I come from a world where hundreds of women are being burnt mainly by their husbands and other members of their marital family.

People try to make marriage work for them. But, what have they derived from it? Legal sanction means nothing even if we get it from the courts. Ending marriage of any kind is permissible legally but takes very long in reality. Civility ends and many complications arise. Some persons use children to continue or end their marriage. Some want to be seen as a couple. But how many people challenge the binary relationship that marriage apparently is and emerge from the box?

Sometime back, we stayed as guests of an African family for 15 days. An elderly mama introduced her 9 children of different ages and occupations who were from different relationships but living together. I believe that one cannot find emotional fulfillment and other satisfaction from one person.

We keep finding women and a few men who are confused about their relationships, emotions et al. A lady who works in the information technology industry in Bangalore came to us about for advice about her personal issue. Her husband had left to work abroad for a year when she was expecting. She sought emotional and physical support from a male colleague during the absence of her husband. However, when she, he began to stalk her.

What does gender plurality mean? Everything does not imply only sex. We have fought identity politics as feminists for 38 years. When we become too assertive about our individuality we should start looking inwards.

A few years ago sexual minorities were fighting for marriages among them to accepted under the Special Marriage Act. I doubt that is necessary.

Gowthaman: You do not have to be married to speak about marriage. I think those who are opposing it also can speak about it. I have learnt this from my interventions in the family court. At the Alternative Law Forum, a human rights law firm where I work, it is good that we have activists from different areas like net neutrality, street vendor rights, labour movements, civil liberties, child rights, gender rights. Often it is assumed that sexuality is discussed only by sexual minorities. I believe that gender and sexuality should be outside boundaries and is different based on ability, religion, caste, gender, race, ethnicity, language, region, etc.

I want to highlight a case from Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu where Divya, a young lady from the Vanniyar caste (considered caste Hindus) and Ilavarasan, a young Dalit man got married despite extreme opposition from their families. However, a few months later, this marriage caused a lot of violence towards Dalits who were economically stable and destruction of their property.

Another point is about the of love jihad where rumours of Muslim men ‘luring’ Hindu women into relationships, were spread particularly in southern Karnataka based on perhaps one true incident. Even now, women and men of different religions or faiths, especially Hindus and Muslims, who are seen together are forcibly separated by vigilantes and sometimes assaulted, irrespective of them being colleagues, classmates, friends, acquaintances, neighbours et al. The challenges of caste and religion should also be the concerns of the sexuality movement.

Victimhood of the powerful is being played without understanding the historical context. We assume that people with disability do not have sex or are incapable. Marriage seems to be devoid of love and care and is more about perpetuating race or money. I wonder which kind of marriage is not forced. Discussions regarding the suicide by the AIIMS physician almost became a fight between women’s rights activists and gender minority rights activists.

Saranya: I am a Hindu woman who married a Catholic man 15 years ago after convincing my family. I wonder which marriage is not forced. A deep sense of insecurity prevails in some people especially when marriages are entered into, in a hurry. I am deeply insecure as an adult, teacher, daughter-in-law and woman. I am unable to go abroad to study leaving my husband as he is dependent on me. And, as a children’s educator, I often question myself if I must direct a child or impose my thoughts. The least you can do with children is to be non-judgmental especially when they seek your assistance regarding relationships. A 9-year old child told me that her parents are not letting her spend time with a boy her age, because she is not of marriageable age. Although I was saddened at her situation, I was relieved to hear that her parents consider that she is too young to be married off.  How do we define marriage – remaining with only one person, sexual intimacy with the same person or something else? Also, we should ask what the meaning of ‘being straight’ is?

“We try to define queer fluidity and plurality although we can explain our understanding of it. As an academic I have seen this as a way of fighting patriarchy but we are trying to establishing a new kind of normativity. Attributing all problems to patriarchy is perhaps not right as it is not the only problem. We talk about gender and sexuality but not necessarily sex. Do we mean when we talk about same sex marriage”, mentioned a researcher.

Maria: I consider myself as a participant in this discussion as I am not very prepared to talk. But I ask the floor what it thinks of child marriage.

Sunil: An 18-year old student in Rajasthan expressed that she wanted to exit her marriage that happened as a child. Such rare displays of courage must be encouraged and emulated.

Champa: We cannot demand courage from people or question them why they are timid. I was not bold when I was 18 years old but now I am.

Gowthaman: We definitely oppose child marriage. I know people in same sex marriages who are seeking legal sanction for marriages and the benefits that go with them.

Shakun: The Hakki Pikki, an adivasi community has no trafficking, minimal sex work openness in relationships where women can walk away from a relationship whenever she wishes to. Our minds are patriarchal and hence we are debating the issue of marriage.

Another participant opined, “Marriage sometimes means that a lady becomes the property of someone or part of it. Also, how do we deal with intersectional problems? Further there is the issue of morality, for some”.

Shakun: I am against universalizing any practice. Let us not infantalize one or more sections of society based on our perceptions of others.

Gowthaman: In some instances, the provisions of the POCSO Act criminalize minor boys even though they are ignorant or innocent.

Chanakya: Let us remember that laws associated with marriage can be used, misused and abused.

Shakun: I have been working with sex workers closely for some years. I had to fight with myself to understand them. Initially they were the other. But I began to realize that they have other identities apart from being sex workers. We must push our boundaries of understanding continuously and give in to our insecurities.

Saranya: I know at least 3 people right now who are married but not in their marriages actually. Maybe social approval or sanction is important to some but let us not thrust it on everyone.

Akkai: Let us not judge others but support their diverse gender identities. I am in a live in a relationship with Midhun who is a transman. The Hijra community said I should pay a penalty of 1,03,000 rupees. I said that I would pay even more but let the police or court decide if I have done anything wrong.

John: Religion places its control over marriage. We are on a journey to deconstruct not just patriarchy but also class, caste and gender within religion.

Gowthaman: Equality can be problematic. Hence, the Indian constitution talks about substantive equality for all.

Sana: When I was aged 17 and doing my pre-university course, my mother suggested that getting me married will make me a complete man. Some people believe that having sex with a girl or woman will help men establish masculinity.

“Many times, inter-caste marriages are prevented as people fear that their individual identity will be denied or disrupted”, noted a participant. Another remarked that there is nothing in black and white in these matters.

John: When marriage and religion comes together it is not only about gender. Some genders are supposedly married to God. Where do we draw the line?

Akkai: The Supreme Court of India gives us all rights but society excommunicates us. It took 12 years for our family to be accepted after my sister married a Dalit man and 2 years after my brother married a person from a different community.

Vasu: “We are are in a confused state about letting go or continuing in a relationship. The conversion of women from the so called ‘lower’ to ‘upper’ caste, after negotiated inter-caste weddings, has been occurring in southern Karnataka. However, the ‘lower’ caste women are not allowed to participate in some religious rituals or enter places of worship. I believe that marriage is often about getting free labour, a sex slave and economics”.

One of the participants shared, “Let us not idealize marriage. From my mother’s perspective, I should marry a Brahmin girl which I think is not only wrong but impossible for me as I am gay”.

“The public celebration of one’s love is marriage, according to me”, said a participant. To that, Vasu and others responded, “It is only the wedding and lasts only a day or a little longer”.

Another participant observed, “Brahminical notions of marriage still exist in Hindu society. The supposed view of marriages as relationships between families is to control resources. Marriage is romantic for some but not so for others”.

Sowmya: My supportive and liberal parents have let me remain as an unmarried 32-year old woman. However, it has become an issue, lately. An elderly police officer known to my father once asked me if he could find me a man of my choice when we went to get permission for the Pride march. It was ironical and my remaining unmarried was declared as a reason for my father’s silence. We should have these conversations outside too, regularly.

“In childhood I came across conversion into Hinduism. However, I wonder if she was accepted into the family. I did not understand or oppose it then but I question compulsory inter-faith and inter-caste conversions, now”, a participant shared.

“I reject the so called institution of marriage. There are many people who are forcing me to get married. I have made peace with my insecurity. I am ok with my wall of dependency.”

Krishnaveni: “People keep asking women and men remaining unmarried without knowing individual preferences, sexual and gender orientation compatibility between people. Blind beliefs must be discouraged. We need love and trust for any relationship to succeed”.

Shakila: “I was put through a forced marriage although my alternate gender was known to my family. Various other challenges followed, sadly.”

Sunil: We discuss marriage without sex and sexuality particularly with children. Forced sex is a horrible problem for many women and they do not have an escape.

Rakshita: I hate the idea of marriage because it is about rituals, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or parenthood. Those who do not follow these norms are sometimes branded as transpersons. To me marriage is about people coming together and co-existing for love.

Vasu: Marriage as a concept has not really changed from ancient times. Akbar and Porus married for political purposes. Marriage is often a political and economic arrangement. We should shun movies that glorify weddings in any language.

Chanakya: We should distinguish between people who want to marry genuinely and those who want to get married for other reasons.

Pushpa: I recall acclaimed film director Sudhir Mishra saying in a magazine interview that marriage cannot be certified by a piece of paper. Often, the enforcing of norms just begins with marriage. The couple is expected to have children of a particular gender, follow certain traditions, fulfill expectations of others due to which their identities and interests are often lost and the relationship suffers. Anyone can choose to marry or not and still have one or more companions or partners for their emotional, sexual or other needs. Let us not romanticize the idea of marriage and its associated conventions especially with children and youth.

Akkai: We should continue to come together particularly when people from other identities, groups, movements need our support.

Saranya concluded with the words, “We should perhaps do away with the convention of vote of thanks since we are talking about breaking norms. It was a wonderful afternoon where people shared their lives and thoughts. Let us keep showing solidarity with each other and meet whenever it is possible for us”.

Compiled by Pushpa

Transgender of Four Years ?…

Four-year-old transgenders? A unique identity indeed…

Four-year-old transgenders? A unique identity indeed...
After this calamity, can we really rely on Aadhaar numbers Karnataka is touting?

* A four-year-old girl has been stamped a transgender.
* A boy born in 2006 in Haveri has been identified as transgender in his Aadhaar card (number XXX960).
* Yet another seven-year-old boy’s gender in his Aadhaar card (XXX462) is a T, meaning transgender.
* A 15-year-old girl from Yellapura, Uttara Kannada, is also recognised as transgender in her Aadhaar card.

The term ‘transgender’ is defined to convey ‘a person whose self-identity does not conform to conventional notions of male or female gender’. Since it’s difficult to 8fathom a four-year-old grappling with issues of gender identity or a teen choosing option ‘T’, one wonders how the government arrived at such a conclusion.
In fact, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which has compiled the latest data of Aadhaar enrolments in the state, has tagged 406 children between the ages of four and 17 years as transgender. This includes six kids aged five years. Of the five crore-odd populace registered so far, 2,920 transgenders in various age brackets have been brought into the Aadhaar fold. However, the ludicrous botch-up in the ambitious scheme to assign every citizen of India a unique identity by way of a12-digit Aadhaar number with a card containing details of the person raises questions on the credibility of the data.
Fingers are being pointed at data entry operators who have erroneously and callously entered ‘T’ instead of ‘M’ or ‘F’ options (Aadhaar application form has Male, Female and Transgender). Officials blame it on privatisation of enrolments, saying there is no accountability on the part of the vendors to whom work is outsourced. However, when contacted by BM, assistant director general of UIDAI, in-charge of Karnataka, Anjali Ellis Shankar was not aware of the issue. “Unless I see the data, I will not be able to comment. You can check with the technology centre from where the data is uploaded,” she said.
So far, total Aadhaar numbers generated as per UIDAI in Karnataka is 5,05,52,602 vis-a-vis the 2011 census of 6,10,49,446, which means the coverage is 82.81%. This includes 2,920 transgenders. But going by the data available with Bangalore Mirror, the actual number of sexual minorities is now in doubt.
Experts’ views would bear this out too. “Identifying a transgender in the 0 to 4 years age group is just impossible. Even the 5-17 years’ category is not accurate,” says sexual minority activist Akkai Padmashali. According to her, a child becomes aware of his/her gender conflict only by around 10 years.
“I realised my feelings by the time I turned eight years and it took some more years for me to figure I am a girl in a boy’s body. You face so much of conflict in your body about your gender which can only be clear by teenage years.
“Only after 18 years, we allow them in our community. These kind of factual blunders in Aadhaar data send out a wrong signal about the community,” added Padmashali, also the founder member of Ondede, an organisation that works for the uplift of sexual minorities and child rights.

According to Dr S Saldanha, a gynaecologist who treats sexual minorities, her patients in this category are usually between the ages of 18 and 20 years and sometimes even 25 years. “A child can understand the feelings, but without awareness it’s not possible to express. Sexual education, teachers, parents and experts can help in this regard,” says Dr Saldanha.


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