THOOTHUKUDI: A 57-year-old ‘woman’ in Thoothukudi has claimed that she disguised as a man for 36 years to ‘raise her lone daughter safely in a patriarchal society’. S Petchiammal who hailed from Kattunayakanpatti village located 30km from Thoothukudi town, said she had to become ‘Muthu’ after the sudden demise of her husband.
Speaking to TNIE, Petchiammal recalled, “I lost my husband Siva just 15 days after marriage. I was only 20 years old then, and soon I gave birth to Shanmugasundari. I decided not to marry again. But raising a child alone turned out to be difficult. I worked in construction sites, hotels and tea shops. But I suffered harassment at all these places.”
Facing sexual taunts and hardship, Petchiammal went to the Tiruchendur Murugan Temple, changed her attire to shirt and lungi, and rechristened herself as Muthu. “We resettled at Kattunayakkanpatti over 20 years ago. Only my close relatives back home and my daughter knew that I am a woman,” she said.
Though Shanmugasundari is now married, Petchiammal is not ready to change her attire. “This identity ensured a safe life for my daughter. I will remain Muthu until I die,” she said. Her Aadhaar card, ration card, and voter ID show her as a man.
Unable to put in hard labour anymore, Petchiammal obtained a MGNREGS job card a year ago on a female identity.
“I don’t own a house or have any savings. I can’t apply for widow certificate also. Since I am too old to work, I request the government to offer me some monetary aid,” she said. Speaking to TNIE, Collector Dr K Senthil Raj said he would check if benefits under any social welfare scheme could be extended to Petchiammal.