KOCHI: At a time when our predominantly parochial and gender-biased society is gradually but surely maturing towards inclusivity and equality for LGBTQ individuals, Chinju Aswathi, a 25-year-old intersex, is all set to script history. Ashwathi Rajappan, or simply Chinju as he likes to be known, filed his nomination papers to contest for the Lok Sabha, from the Ernakulam Constituency, on Thursday.
The first intersex candidate ever to contest elections in Kerala, Chinju, a resident of Angamaly, aims to reform societal acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and to implement the rights of his community, through positive and constructive activism. When it comes to society and its attitude towards his community, Chinju has a lot to say.
"While rights for the transgender and queer community are assured by the state, and the repressive Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code has been struck down by the Supreme Court last year, there has not been much of improvement in the lives of people belonging to the community. The stigma still stays, like a shadow", says Chinju.
"I will be contesting as an independent candidate, without the support of any party". Though he realises that he would be pitted against political big shots, he is positive about the outcome, whatever it may be. "I will continue with my fight and persistent attempts to reform our society," says Chinju.
Chinju, a Bsc Electronics graduate from IHRD College Thodupuzha and an MSc drop-out, credits his education for the resolve he developed to fight for his rights in society. "Many like me are struggling for a platform to speak up and make the world realize that we are also a part of society. Unfortunately, there are but few who are mature enough to listen. It is my education alone, which has empowered me to speak up confidently", he said.
A fervent activist for the LGBTQ cause, Chinju was working with a queer community in Bangalore under a fellowship he received from The Solidarity Foundation. In medical terminology, intersex individuals are those born with any of several variations in sexual characteristics, including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals.
"Born intersex, for a long 22 years, I lived the life of a woman and had my share of both good and bad experiences. When I came out of my shell, to acknowledge my sexuality and embrace my identity in 2016, my family members and dear ones accepted me for what I am. I draw my strength from their support and encouragement, and am eager to bring about a change in our society", said Chinju. Today, he actively works with 'Sahayatrika', an NGO for human rights.
"If one is not part of the political power system, however great the intent, or exhaustive the efforts, one will fail to achieve progress and rights for the community", Chinju adds.
The societal stigma associated with dual sexuality is so strongly deep-rooted, that fetal deaths continue unabated in our state, which boasts of highest educational standards in the country. "Doctors who assess that the child within the mother's womb has abnormalities, physical or intersex, have no qualms to suggest abortion. It is tragic that even now, in the progressive 21st century, so many such cases are occurring in our state. This has to stop - don't we also have a right to live?", asks Chinju.