During the two-day Koothandavar festival in Koovagam, agriculture fields surrounding the village became grounds for sexual activities on Tuesday night. Residents of the area raised concerns about this aspect of the festival, which, they say, is “worrisome” and spoils the reputation of the transgender community on the whole. They urged authorities and police to take appropriate actions to stop the practice.
Agriculture field on either side of the Koovagam-Natham road became areas where prostitution was carried out in the open. From teenagers to elderly men, several were seen soliciting sexual services from transgenders, who waited in the darkness near the fields. Many also used the areas to drink alcohol, turning open grounds into bars. Several cars and vans were also parked along the road.
On this, K Ayyappan, a PhD scholar who researched the issue, said, “Some transgenders are taking up sex work to meet basic livelihood needs. They are not offered jobs because of social stigma, so, left with no other option, they take to begging and the sex trade.” This trend deteriorates our culture and is completely unacceptable, he added.
He further said, “Transgenders who are involved in sex trade should not be punished, rather they should be rehabilitated.”
Samanthi, a transgender from Chennai, said, “Though we are educated, no one offers us jobs. Transgenders run a self-help group and sell sarees, but the income is very little. This forces some to involve in sex trade. The government should formulate a plan to create job opportunities for us.”
Ramamurthy, a resident of Villupuram, said, “Koovagam was like any other religious site. But of late, it has become a prostitution site. However, only some transgenders are involved in sex trade at Koovagam, bringing a bad name to the community. Police needs to curb this practice from next year.”