Crime & Justice

Indian trans women struggle to secure police jobs in quest for respect

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Mar 3 (EFE).- Arya Pujari, a trans woman who has fought against discrimination all her life, is now spending her days preparing for a test to join the police in India’s western state of Maharashtra, as part of the community’s quest to gain the society’s respect.

Pujari is one of the dozens of trans women who have registered themselves for the test for the first time in the state, after winning a court battle to ensure that the authorities recognize the “third gender” as a category after similar initiatives in other states.

One of the people behind the court decision in December which resulted in the state opening police positions for trans people for the first time, the 23-year-old from a middle-class family told EFE that she had to “wake up” the authorities to the “new reality.”

“The Maharashtra state government was caught napping over the top court order that recognized third-gender persons,” she said.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of India recognized the existence of a third gender apart from the masculine and feminine categories in a country where the trans community has existed as an entity for centuries but faces continued discrimination.

Pujari said that since childhood, when she realized her “soul was in the wrong body,” she has felt discriminated against by friends and classmates.

“I was born male, but my soul was womanish. I had all the feelings of a woman, I wanted to behave like a woman, act like a woman,” she said, adding that as soon as she started behaving like her instinct told her to, she faced discrimination.

After being rejected by her family and earning her livelihood as a dancer for a while, Pujari tried to study nursing, only to find that there was no “third gender” option in the exams.

“But I have always wanted to join the police. That was the dream of my parents” – who finally have begun to accept her as she is – the budding police officer said.

She was inspired by Prithika Yashini – the first Indian trans woman to become a police officer in 2017 – to fight her battle in the courts.

Pujari is driven by the hope of initiating a change in the society and gain recognition for the community.

“We are winning our battles. One at a time. There is hope, but the fight is tough and protracted,” she said, explaining how 73 trans persons had already registered for the police hiring test.

Mukhyadal, 34, lives in the city of Pimpri-Chinchwad and currently works as a security guard after fleeing her house in 2004 due to the ill-treatment she received from her step-mother.

However, she continued her studies later got a degree in dance.

“I became a dancer. That was when I opened up about my identity. That was when I openly started behaving the way I felt deep inside. I grew my hair. I behaved like a woman. I lived like a woman. And it was empowering. It was a relief,” she told EFE.

This is when Mukhyadal was able to save for her sex-change surgery, and even went on to open a beauty parlor. .

However, the women clients did not trust her like she had hoped, and the business had to be shut down, with all the investment being lost.

After starting work as a municipal security guard, Muhkyadal believes becoming a police officer is only the logical next step.

However, while the road to even appear for these job exams has been tough, many more obstacles remain.

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