Madhusruthi Neelakantan is a Chennai-based lawyer, who has recently been on a mission – working with transgender women in their fight for the most basic of rights. Her journey of work with transgender people began through legal literacy workshops for them. The goal of this was to help them understand the constitution, their rights, begging laws, sex work laws and to understand the working of the legal system – in short, a rights-based approach to education for transgenders. Through her work there and with Professor Deepika Jain, Madhusruthi was introduced to a lot of transgender people. She would also engage with them on the occasions when they wanted legal remedies or needed something drafted.
Her path then led her to a meeting with Rakshika, through Shaktishree Sharmila, the first transgender advocate in India. Rakshika is a transgender nurse who finished her B.Sc Nursing and wanted to enroll in the Tamil Nadu Nurses and Midwives Council. The Tamil Nadu Nurses and Midwives Council is essentially a regulatory body which maintained a record of all the nurses in Tamil Nadu. There is a governing body which regulates the laws. Upon taking up Rakshika’s case, Madhusruthi’s prayer to the court was that there was no third gender column in the registration form.
“Rakshika fulfilled every other criterion except that she was not male or female, neither did she want to be categorized as either. She wanted to be identified as the third gender and so went to court asking the court to allow her into mandamus, seeking direction to say that Rakshika could be enrolled as third gender. The Madras High court was pleased to allow our prayer, but it was enforced only to a specific effect because the issue was that there was no third column created for transgender people. For the time being, they allowed her to be enrolled as a trans woman under the woman column instead of a transgender woman,”
That was the relief given by the Madras High court and in the meantime, the state had undertaken to do the amendment and to bring in the third column or option for all service public sector jobs and public sector forms.
Tamil Nadu is the first of the Nursing and Midwives Councils to have a third gender option in the works. There are many forms where the column or option to select gender as transgender is not available. However, people are still allowed to apply for them, irrespective of gender. No court of law or government body can deny that right to any citizen.
Prithika Yashini made history by becoming the first transgender police personnel in India. Another pending case that Madhusruthi is working on is regarding cut off exception and age relaxation for transgenders who applied for the position of Grade 2 constable in the High Court.