Women’s body condemns Air India’s discrimination against TN trans woman

The organisation has issued a statement supporting the TN trans woman who has taken on Air India at the Supreme Court for denying her a cabin crew position.
Women’s body condemns Air India’s discrimination against TN trans woman
Women’s body condemns Air India’s discrimination against TN trans woman
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Shanavi Ponnusamy, a transgender woman from Tamil Nadu, has been making news for taking on Air India in the Supreme Court for denying her a cabin crew position, allegedly on the basis of her gender.

Recently, she won support from the Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), which issued a statement strongly condemning Air India’s denial of a job to Shanavi because of her gender identity.

“In a shameful but sadly commonplace instance of gender discrimination and transphobia, Shanavi was rejected multiple times by Air India for the cabin crew post once her identity as a transwoman was revealed,” the statement said.

The six-page statement further elaborates how, according to the NALSA judgment, Shanavi was well within her rights to self-identify her gender and apply for the position in Air India under the women’s category. “However, most education boards are in violation of the NALSA judgment because they have not changed the names and genders on the educational documents of transgender people to reflect their preferred name and gender,” the statement notes.

The statement also argues in favour of Shanavi and lists the various grounds on which Air India’s treatment of Shanavi is in violation of the NALSA judgment:

“Significantly, the NALSA judgment also upholds the right to identify with the gender of one’s choice. Therefore, we believe that people should be able to apply as women/men/transgender based on their self-declared gender identity, regardless of whether they were assigned that gender at birth. Secondly, if there is any discrepancy with the name and gender on education certificates, or if the candidate were to reveal their transgender identity, they should be considered for affirmative action - that is, hired in preference over other applicants who have similar qualifications. Hiring under such affirmative action policies should not be revealed in the workplace by the employer after the employee is hired so that they can work in a stigma-free environment if they choose, and persons hired in the transgender category should be able to chose the gender of their choice to function in the workplace without being forced to stick to the transgender category. Finally, some employees may transition after joining a workplace under a different gender category and the workplace should support this transition.”

Also criticising Air India’s statement that they would file a defamation case against Shanavi, WSS argues, “Do they even imagine what it means for a transwoman, who has suffered indignity, discrimination and rejection all her life to assert herself and struggle and come to this stage!? Here's the country's first ever transperson, in our 70 years of independence, who could be a potential cabin crew and this is how AI seeks to treat her!”

WSS rightly observes that Shanavi’s ordeal is indicative of the struggles of the transgender community in India. “Transgender persons are most vulnerable to sexual violence and other forms of discrimination and social exclusion which include lack of access to education, employment, housing, basic medical facilities, etc. The degree of vulnerability increases in case of individuals belonging to the bottom of the caste and class hierarchy and many transgender women are left with no option but to self organize and eke out stigmatized livelihoods such as sex work and begging for basic subsistence.”

Talking about Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi referring to trans persons as “the others” in the Parliament, WSS mentioned that even lawmakers are no better, and are often ignorant and insensitive towards the trans community. “WSS condemns in the strongest possible terms the crude and irresponsible remarks made by Ms. Gandhi which not only serve to trivialize the dehumanizing treatment routinely meted out to transgender persons but also reinforces the existing prejudices and the social exclusion which they face as a stigmatized community,” the statement says.

Critiquing and reiterating the concerns a number of activists and transgender individuals have voiced about the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016, WSS demanded that it be revised and revisited within the framework of the NALSA judgment.

Favouring Shanavi, WSS finally demands the following:

  • The NALSA judgment must be implemented and upheld in both letter and spirit in the court of law not only through the recognition of the discrimination by Air India but also by assuring Shanavi of her livelihood and her right to live with dignity as already enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • We demand that transgender persons be allowed to select the category of their choice while applying for jobs and that a transgender category be provided instead of just male or female while seeking employment in accordance with the NALSA judgment passed by the Supreme Court of India in 2014.
  • All educational boards should immediately comply with the spirit of the NALSA judgment and change the name and gender of the past education certificates issued to transgender persons, upon receipt of their changed government identity documents.
  • Shanavi’s fundamental right to privacy and that of all transgender persons applying for jobs, with respect to the revelation of their transgender identity, should be upheld. The outing of Shanavi’s identity as a transwoman in the course of the struggle has already hampered her prospects of seeking alternative employment, thereby exacerbating her vulnerability.

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