MADURAI: Gopi Shankar, a Madurai-based intersex activist, has been appointed by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment as one of the five representatives of the transgender community to the National Council for Transgender Persons.
Shankar will be representing states, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala, and the southern Union Territories. Gopi had contested the TN Assembly election in 2016, conducted Asia’s first gender-queer pride parade in Madurai, and also set up India’s first helpline for LGBTQI+ at a nonmetropolitan city (Madurai).
Gopi was also a young panelist to share chair in University Grants Commission of India and Indian Council of Social Sciences Research-sponsored National Seminars in India. The activist has also coined regional Tamil terms for gender-queer people and wrote the first book on gender-variants in Tamil.
Speaking to TNIE, Gopi said the formation of commission was a decade-old battle and that a path-breaking baby step towards much-inclusive policy decisions. “Intersex people are often invisibilised from the legal and policy discourse. The distinction between gender identity and sex characteristics is also not understood,” explained Gopi.
Every year over 13,000 intersex infants born in India are undergoing a horrible surgical procedure for which there is no medical protocol, said Gopi, pointing out that intersex people do not have redress mechanisms for violations inflicted upon them. “They face massive barriers in access to health, education, public services and employment.
They don’t have a community for themselves akin to transgenders or homosexual communities. During my tenure, I plan to spread awareness about their rights in general and those of intersex infants and children in particular. I hope to contribute in developing a comprehensive legal protection regime for intersex human rights,” Gopi added.