2015 has been a year of several firsts for India’s transgender community. The country’s first transgender mayor was elected in January, its first transgender college principal appointed in May, and the first transgender idol for the Durga Puja festival inaugurated last month. Now, Chennai resident K Prithika Yashini is all set to became India’s first transgender sub-inspector for the police force in the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu.
After a long legal struggle, the Madras High Court declared the 25-year-old to be eligible to be appointed as a sub-inspector. It also asked the state’s Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board to include transgenders as a category in their next recruitment process.
The judges added: “The social impact of such recruitment cannot be lost sight of, as it would give strength to the case of transgenders. Yashini must reach the finish line, and not be stopped and disqualified in the middle.” Tamil Nadu already has three transgender constables, but Yashini will be the first transgender police officer both in the state and the country.
Born in the city of Salem in Tamil Nadu, Yashini was named K Pradeep Kumar at birth. After completing her diploma in computer application, she came to the state capital Chennai in 2011, and underwent a sex-reassignment surgery with the support of local NGOs. In 2013, she changed her name to Pritihka Yashini and got a new identity card. However in February this year, when she applied for the post of sub-inspector, her application was rejected on the grounds that her name did not match the male birth name mentioned on her education certificates.
After Yashini petitioned the Madras High Court to change her name, she was allowed to appear for the written examination. She completed the recruitment process, but was disqualified during the physical endurance test, after being just one second short of the qualifying time in a 100 m sprint. In interviews, Yashini had described the challenges of training without a coach. The court’s judgement cleared the last hurdle in Yashini’s dream of becoming a police officer.
The Madras High Court judges stressed on the discrimination faced by transgenders in India, adding that they hoped Yashini would work with “dedication and commitment to advance the cause of other transgenders”.
Transgender people face considerable discrimination and harassment in India, resulting in economic and educational marginalsation. In a landmark judgement last year, India’s Supreme Court recognised the third gender status for transgenders, and asked the Central government to treat them as socially and economically backward. Today’s judgement is a step ahead in empowering them.