THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When the ‘State Policy for Transgenders in Kerala’ 2015 was released by Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson on Thursday, the person who was chosen to receive its first copy was Akkai Padmashali.
She is here to attend the three-day International Conference on Gender Equality at Kovalam.
A transsexual, she has been a member of the committee drafting the State Policy for Transgenders in Karnataka. “I went through Kerala’s policy. It is a beautiful policy, however, it does have some issues. It does not completely address issues pertaining to laws like IPC Section 377. It could have introduced awareness on transgender in school curriculum,” she told City Express.
She said that the policy does not effectively address issues related to social stigma. “Merely introducing laws and policies will not help. Those are just weapons for the state. But who is the final authority - the society. Can the mindset of the common people be more accepting?” she asked.
She, like most transgender persons, was violated by peers, and could not complete school. “I am tenth standard, Mathematics failed,” she shared. She spoke in English, a language which she mastered watching news channels.
She, unlike most transsexuals, lives with her family. “I never quit my family. I fought to stay with them. I am not an antisocial element, so how can you reject me, I would ask them,” she said. All that when she was around eight or nine years.
However, she would have to traverse another eight years, before she would understand her gender identity. “I attempted suicide when I was 11 years. I begged. I slept with people to earn Rs 1 or Rs 5. I was raped. Because of what? My identity,” she said. The name she took as a transgender person was Ashta Aishwarya Ghana Sampanne Doddamane Akkayamma Padmashali. In 2012, she went through Sex Reassignment Surgery. In 2014, she became the first transsexual person in the country to have a driving licence indicating her status as ‘female’. Akkai is the founder member of ‘Ondede’ which works for the protection of the rights of children, women and sexual minorities.
At this point, she laughed, to oblige the request of a lensman. Karnataka brought not just her, but other transgender people on the committee drafting transgender policy. “We ensured that a majority of the people deciding on the policy are transgender persons. This is something I would like to emphasise,” she said.
“Why should the Minister be the Chairperson of the Transgender Board here? Why cannot a capable transgender person with enough skills be the chairperson of the board or committee? How can one be sure that there is no power politics here?” she asked.
Kerala has been one step ahead compared to other states, by being the first state to launch a transgender policy. Technically, the first. The Karnataka policy was drafted, tabled in the 2015-16 budgetary session and fine-tuned, according to Akkai. “Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are the other Indian states which have started preparing transgender,” she said.