India gets first transgender news anchor

Padmini Prakash, 31, read her first bulletin last month on Lotus TV based in southern city of Coimbatore.

Supreme Court recently recognised "third gender" status for the transgender community [Courtesy Padmini Prakash]

Padmini Prakash has become India’s first transgender anchor after she read her first bulletin last month on Lotus TV based in southern city of Coimbatore.

Padmini, 31, who had to drop out of college after her family abandoned her at the age of 18, said she wanted people to respect her community.

“Since this is a job of great responsibility I wanted to motivate people of my community by choosing this profession. By seeing my growth as a professional I want people to respect my community as well,” she told Al Jazeeera.

She read her first bulletin on August 15 after she was promoted by the channel to be an anchor.

As soon as the show ended, she called up her husband Prakash and asked, “Did I read well?”

“Very well,” he replied.

A trained Bharatnatyam dancer, Padmini took to activism to raise awareness about transgender community and finally it led her to taking up the offer of becoming a news anchor of the news channel in Tamil Nadu state.

This comes nearly four months after India’s Supreme Court recognised the existence of the “third gender” status for the members of the transgender community, also known as “hijras”.

The apex court also directed the state and federal governments to allow reservation in jobs and education by treating them as part of an economically and socially backward class.

Opportunities for transgenders

The transgender community has historically faced discrimination forcing several of them out of their homes, facing systemic abuse and harassment. Many of them are reduced to begging on the streets and sometimes forced into prostitution for lack of mainstream job opportunities.

The Chairman of Lotus TV, VK Selvakumar said that he wanted to motivate the community to come out and see that there could be opportunities for them in the mainstream media.

A trained Bharatnatyam dancer, Padmini took to activism and finally it led her to taking up the offer of becoming a news anchor [Courtesy Padmini Prakash]

“I wanted the Tamil people to change their minds and give the opportunity to transgenders and motivate them to come out of their homes,” he told Al Jazeera.

Padmini’s popularity has spurred the management to go a step ahead and hire reporters and more anchors from the community.

But activists said that it was only the beginning of a revolution, the real awakening was far from being realised.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, the founding member of Asia Pacific Transgender Network and one of the petitioners in the case that lead to the Supreme Court ruling said that the real churning now needs to begin with India’s education sector where transgender students routinely face harassment from their peers and teachers.

She is part of the steering committee which is looking into the enrollment and absorption of these students in education institutions along with streamlining better counselling services to them.

“Society will not change in one day. We had issues of child marriage, leprosy and Sati not too long ago. India has always set an example about how things can change. It’s a start of a big work, where every step by members of our community sets an example for the mainstream society,” she told Al Jazeera.

For Padmini though her next big dream is to be a prominent face of the Indian media in coming years, as a proud transgender woman without fear of discrimination or stigma.

Follow Priyanka Gupta on Twitter: @PriyankagIND

Source: Al Jazeera