The TV9 Kannada news channel telecast a programme titled “Operation Anandi” from 10 AM – 4 PM on Sunday, 25th 2016, that portrayed the transgender community in Karnataka in a false and derogatory manner. This has affected the transgender community across Karnataka very adversely and we are facing increased violence from the police and are being ostracized further by our neighbours and the general public. Consequent to the telecasting of the programme, many of our families who had accepted us with our transgender identity are harassing us, while landowners are forcing us to vacate our offices and homes. Hence, the Karnataka Transgender Samiti (KTS) organized a press meet on 5th October 2016 in Bangalore to refute the myths and allegations shown in the “Operation Anandi” programme and highlight the realities of the transgender community in Karnataka.
In the recent complaint against several members of the transgender community, 6 persons have been arrested and placed in judicial custody with serious charges of offences of abduction, wrongful confinement, grievous hurt and even attempt to murder. Even though the persons accused are in judicial custody, because of the huge media coverage of the issue, the police are barging into the homes of many other transgender persons under the guise of investigation, invading their privacy and threatening their safety. Many transgender women have been extremely threatened by such police action and are afraid of getting arrested, even when they have been fully co-operating with the police for any investigation.
The transwomen who are in judicial custody, are facing serious discrimination owing to their gender. While all are identified as women, one of them is classified as male and has been placed in the men’s cell where she has been harassed and humiliated by the other male undertrials and also the police, making fun of her being a woman. Many of the accused are sick and need medical treatment. Presently, bail applications are filed for some of the persons arrested and the bail applications are pending before the Sessions Court.
Welcoming the media persons present, Akkai Padmashali, member KTS introduced the speakers and summarized the adverse impact of the negative portrayal of the transgender community.
Riyana said, “I am 21 years, a Mangalamukhi, studying cosmetology and wellness at St. Joseph’s college. On 25th September morning, a programme telecast on TV9 Kannada showed my parents speaking about me, with their faces partly covered. They were compelled to talk without being informed about the objective and content of the programme. Further, without my consent, TV9 used my name and images. When I visited the TV9 office to question I was pushed out by the staff and security guard there. I chose to be a transwoman and am not mentally or physically challenged. I can live only with a Mangalamukhi and not with a man or woman. I have attempted suicide and was admitted to Bowring Hospital when I was younger. But I know my body and emotions. Some media organizations are judgemental about me. Societal or political issues can be resolved through courts, if required. Depicting falsehoods about our community or blaming us unnecessarily affects us badly. We cannot be visible in public easily. Our Ajji, Naani, Guru and community elders et al care for us our as our biological parents often reject us. I underwent SRS willingly and was not brainwashed. I am happy with my life as a Mangalamukhi unlike the boy I was born as”.
Baby, a transwoman who was jailed along with Mangala in 2008 for over 2 years, under the false accusation of having kidnapped and forcibly castrated Shilpa, a mangalamukhi, revealed, “During my incarceration, my parents attempted suicide. TV9 had broadcast a false and insensitive report about the incidents and the transgender community, even then. Ratanakar Shetty, a police inspector, coerced me to sign a false confession about my alleged involvement”.
Shilpa, a transwoman, whose sex change was forcibly reversed at Apollo hospital in 2008, disclosed, “I was physically tortured when Shankar Bidari was Commissioner, Bangalore Police. After 3 months, I rejected my family and the sex change reversal and left home. Shetty, Bidari and Basavaraju harassed me terribly. TV9 is showing my story again after 8 years. Should I live or die? Is being a Mangalamukhi wrong? I do not deserve such a life”.
Quoting the Harry Benjamin protocol, Akkai questioned how one can determine another’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Who is a transgender? In Malleswaram, a young transgender person was thrown on the railway tracks.
Vinay Sreenivasa from the Alternative Law Forum observed, “Transgender persons have explained how the TV9 programme has impacted the community adversely. 6 of them are in jail because of it and they are innocent until proven guilty by law. TV9’s repeated broadcast of the programme amounts to contempt of court as it relates to case that is sub-judice. It is a trial by media which a civilized society cannot accept. All the transgender persons who spoke on the programme are adults. Although sting operations are done, using a “spy camera” in case like this violates the right to privacy, Code of Ethics and broadcasting standards. The NBSA passed a relevant order after complaints against TV9 telecasting the programme titled “Gay Culture Rampant in Hyderabad” in February 2011. The Press Council of India has recognized the right to privacy of an accused person. Invading the privacy of already marginalized community does not serve any purpose. What is the point of repeatedly telecasting a program about people who have already been proved innocent? And how does it serve public interest?”
Sheila Devaraj, Director, Association for Promoting Social Action shared, “We are among the organizations running the ChildLine1098. We came across 2 children who were gender nonconforming. Luckily, we could rehabilitate them. All staff members in APSA are sensitized about realities of gender nonconforming children. Many parents are not convinced about challenges of gender nonconforming children. Law or government has nothing to assist such children. As an NGO, we recommend that the CWC should have an advisory member from the transgender community. Space can be provided in the state home for gender nonconforming children. Otherwise, they will commit or attempt suicide. Currently, a gender non-conforming boy Mahesh is placed in a boy’s home and is being mocked by other children. We are all responsible for the exclusion of transgender persons and must change that.
Kumari B, member, Karnataka Transgender Samiti, stated,“For 14 years I am with the transgender community. I live with my parents who named me Kumar and know about my identity. I took them for counselling. No one in the community forced me to undergo castration and have not seen anyone else forced. Actually, when I went to Mumbai, older hijras advised me to think hard before undergoing castration. The media must hence show our truths”.
Gee Imaan Semmalar, a transman, shared, “Transgender usually implies transwomen. We transmen are a smaller number who also face various kinds of harassment. However, I will not discuss that much since the current issue concerns my transsisters with whom I express solidarity. A transwoman has been a placed in a male cell and is facing harassment. We will fight this problem socially and politically”.
Akkai added, “We condemn the fact that no policewoman was present when trans women Aishu, Anandi, Sindhu and others were arrested. Should a psychologist, doctor or the law determine our gender or we? We do not kidnap or curse anyone. Please highlight positive stories about us. The DV Act or rape law do not address issues relevant to us. I am worried about the boy Mahesh. Issues of gender nonconforming children must be included in child protection and other laws. We told the Ugrappa committee that we will stop Dayamma Nirvana. SRS must be made free. The state and central government, child, women’s and gender minorities movement must discuss the age of consent with respect to choosing gender, sexual orientation, having sex and other aspects.
A TV9 reporter claimed, ”We have telecast positive stories about the transgender community. Parents who spoke on the program came willingly and no one was targeted specifically. The transgender community members also spoke in our studio”.
Rianna added, “My parents do not know of Anandi. You twisted facts about the boy called Kishore and blurred my photo. You did not interview me or call me. Your judgemental attitude is causing me and my community many problems. You have no right to refer to me as he or she. Even my parents call me Rianna and not as he or she. If I commit suicide, will you take responsibility?”
Veena S, member KTS, stated, “We appreciated TV9 whenever it aired positive stories about the transgender community and received awards. With Operation Anandi, you have reintroduced fear in our community. We leave our homes because of rejection. If society also refuses us, where will we go?”
Sowmya: Why did Mangala and Baby have to suffer? You may say that u showed negatively only about a few ppl. But that has adversely affected us. Even Akkai and I cannot meet the DCP or go in the public without stereotyping and mockery.
Chandini Gagana, member KTS remarked, “Our 20 years of struggle and achievements have been severely impacted in the last 3 days. What was the need to broadcast the Shilpa episode then and now?”
Akkai concluded the meeting with the words “Judge not, Support gender identity. Judge not, Support sexual diversity. The transgender community is planning a public rally in Bangalore on 21st October 2016 with support from Dalit, religious minority, women’s and other human rights groups. We need media support and will notify the venue and time after obtaining police permission.