Protest
Members of the transgender community had taken out a protest march in Thiruvananthapuram against Pillai's choice of words, while criticising a rival party, that insulted the community.
Photo: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair

BJP Kerala president PS Sreedharan Pillai expressed regret if his words at a media briefing had hurt a community.

His apologies came soon after a march was taken out by members of the transgender community in Thiruvananthapuram, protesting his choice of words while ridiculing a rival party. Pillai had spoken of the Congress party as behaving like the third gender because they kept changing their stance on the Sabarimala issue. He was criticising the party for its attitude towards the entry of women at the Sabarimala temple. A recent Supreme Court verdict had lifted the ban on women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the temple.

Pillai said that Congress party was behaving like it was neither male nor female.

The offensive comment had angered the trans community in Kerala, and a few members took out a march in Thiruvananthapuram, from the Martyr’s Square to the BJP’s office, shouting slogans such as ‘Aanalla, pennalla, aanum pennum chernavar nammal’ (Not a man, neither a woman, but we are a blend of both).

“He should apologise. No one can decide a gender position as 1, 2 or 3. He has compared a party he was criticising as taking a neither-one-nor-the-other attitude. That would mean we are like that,” said Syama S Prabha, state project officer at the Transgender Cell, Social Justice Department.

She added: “We have every right to live with dignity, even the Supreme Court has said this. This is not the first time a BJP leader is insulting us. Central government members too have taken an indifferent attitude towards us. Union Minister Maneka Gandhi was very sarcastic of us (she had called trangender persons the other ones during a Lok Sabha debate and later apologized). Another minister Ramdas Athawale has questioned our right to clothes (he had advised transgender people not to wear Saris).”

Sexual and Gender Minority Federation of Kerala (SGMFK) president Sreekutty said: “It is not us who are ‘kettavar’ (bad) but the minds of those that call us so. We strongly protest his words. If he doesn’t take back what he said, we would next march to his house.”