In a video posted on Twitter, Udhaya, a folk artist, is seen explaining the horrific violence, and the casteist and transphobic slurs she faced from her partner’s family.

Transgender woman Udhaya admitted at Nagercoil GHGrace Banu / Instagram
news Crime Tuesday, March 29, 2022 - 19:28

A Dalit transgender woman in Tirunelveli was critically injured after being brutally beaten up by the family of her partner, who belong to a dominant caste. The incident took place on the night of Thursday, March 24. A video shared on Twitter by trans rights activist Grace Banu shows Udhaya, a folk artist and a trans woman, talking about the violence she faced from her partner’s family.

“They beat me up, tortured me and used abusive words. They also tried to stab me with a knife, but I managed to get hold of it and throw it away,” said an injured Udhaya. She went on to state that her partner’s mother verbally assaulted her with casteist and transphobic slurs.

“It was two years ago that he (Balanand, her partner) tied a thaali (mangalsutra) around my neck,” Udhaya is seen saying in the video. She said he left her at the temple in which they were married, but his parents arrived and took her to their house on the pretext of being happy about their relationship. “They even called me their daughter-in-law and asked me if I was well. But then they started to beat me up and torture me. He (Balanand) kept telling them not to hit me. He told them he was the one who tied that thaali around my neck and asked them to forgive me,” Udhaya said.

Udhaya detailed the violence meted out to her by Balanand’s family, including by his mother and brother. She lost consciousness and was taken outside and dropped by the road, she added.

Udhaya was first admitted to the Tirunelveli Government Hospital with the help of a few transgender persons who came to her aid. She was shifted to the Nagercoil Government Hospital on March 26 because of her poor health condition, said Grace Banu. “Udhaya is unable to open one of her eyes now because of the violence. She should get justice. Until then, we will not get her discharged from the hospital,” she said.

The police said a case has been registered against five people – Udhaya’s partner Balanand, his parents and two other relatives – under three sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, IPC sections 506(2) (criminal intimidation), 355 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour a person), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), and 294(b) (sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words) at the Palavoor police station. All five of the accused are currently absconding and a special team has been formed to nab them, Tirunelveli Superintendent of Police P Saravanan told TNM.

Grace pointed out that the police had not invoked the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act initially. It was only after she got the Tirunelveli Collectorate to intervene that the FIR was altered on Monday, March 28, four days after the incident, she said. “The police have, however, still not invoked the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, which is meant to provide protection to and ensure the welfare of transgender persons,” she said, adding that SP Saravanan has promised to nab the culprits in two days.

However, the SP told TNM that the delay in invoking the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was due to a lack of precedent, and that they were seeking legal opinion on the same. “Once we get a clarification on this, we will definitely alter the FIR to invoke the Transgender Protection Act. As far as I know, this is the first time the Act is going to be invoked for a case like this. So it is necessary for us to get some clarification on this,” SP Saravanan said.

Grace also questioned the media and activist groups. “Nobody seems to be paying attention to this incident. Even Dalit groups are not willing to take it up. This is the kind of atrocity and violence that trans people have to face all the time and yet it goes completely unseen,” she said. “Dalit trans women are in fact the most oppressed section within the trans women community,” Grace said, further pointing out that they, however, have been kept out of the Dalit movement for a long time.

“When we talk about transphobia, people think it is limited to the idea of our identity as a transgender person. But in a patriarchal and casteist society, the kind of oppression that Dalit transgender people have to face is unprecedented. They are doubly oppressed. Over the past four days, I have been trying hard to bring what happened to Udhaya to the limelight. Even Dalit movements ignore this subsection of their community. Many of them know what happened, have understood the issue and offered support. But they are not ready to come to the forefront and help in our fight for Udhaya’s rights,” said Grace.

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