The Supreme Court on Monday heard the case of Shanavi Ponnusamy, a trans woman from Tamil Nadu, against the gender-based discrimination she allegedly faced in Air India while applying for the position of a cabin crew.
The first bench comprised of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said they would next hear Shanavi’s petition after two weeks.
Shanavi tells TNM that Air India, despite having admitted to her earlier that they did not have a policy for hiring trans women, they have changed their stand now.
“They argued in court that they had rejected me on the basis of merit, and not my gender. But we countered them, saying that even if that is the case, they cannot expect a disadvantaged transgender person to have the same traits and performance as a cisgender woman,” she argues.
Shanavi adds that she feels hopeful with how the proceedings are going.
Shanavi had moved the Supreme Court last year after she was rejected by Air India four times in 2016, even though she met all the criteria under the ‘female’ category for cabin crew post.
At first, she did not understand why she was being rejected. She learnt later that she was not being hired because she is a trans woman.
“I kept thinking I was doing something wrong and tried to work on myself. In July 2016 they actually put out an advertisement for vacancies for female cabin crew. But when they rejected me the fourth time in August, I finally asked why, and realised that it was because I am a trans woman,” Shanavi had told TNM.
Shanavi also tried approaching the Ministry of Civil Aviation in Delhi, where an officer seemed to support her case. However, even that was not enough for Air India – she was not even allowed to meet the Chairman and Managing Director of the airline, after waiting for several hours.
It was only in September 2017 that she received a response from Air India saying they did not have a policy for hiring trans women.
The discrimination and humiliation of the entire experience compelled Shanavi to take the case to the Supreme Court late last year, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender, and violation of her rights under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.
The ordeal also outed Shanavi as a trans woman, which made her other job opportunities like modeling, scarce.
She had even written to the Indian government about her ordeal in February this year and asked for a mercy killing to draw attention to her issue.