She’s done all sorts of work — everything from transgender rights activism to teaching dance to acting in a soap opera to competing in transgender beauty pageants. Prakash worked for Lotus News, based in Coimbatore for about a month before she was promoted in August to anchor its 7 p.m. broadcast.
“We are supportive of Padmini because she is very hard-working,” Lotus News Channel chairman GKS Selvakumar told the Times of India. “After initial trials, we were convinced that she had the potential to be an excellent news anchor.”
And with that, Prakash became the country’s first transgender news anchor when she read a bulletin on Indian Independence Day — Aug. 15 of last month.
“I was very worried because I also had to focus on my diction and maintain a steady narrative pace to ensure that there was clarity and viewers could understand me,” Prakash told the Times of India.
Prakash’s ascendance is a study in how quickly judicial recognition can help foster societal change. When India’s Supreme Court recognized a third gender in April, it didn’t just establish another line on government forms. The ruling solidified protections for hijras — individuals who are transgender, intersex or eunuchs — who faced employment and even medical discrimination from doctors who refused to treat them, and harassment from police. It guaranteed equal rights in adopting children.
“It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” the court said.
The hijra community was recognized and celebrated for hundreds of years until the country fell under British colonial rule. “Eunuchs are celebrated in sacred Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata and the Kama Sutra. They also enjoyed influential positions in the Mughal courts,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper said.
An official with the news channel told India TV: “Padmini now anchors better than many others. We get very good feedback from viewers. Offices of companies do not encourage transgenders. We want to change that and motivate them. We would give opportunity for many other qualified transgenders too.”
A recent census found 490,000 Indians identified as hijras, but the government has been accused of dragging its feet when it comes to implementing the ruling established in April. The Wall Street Journal detailed the objections of conservatives in the Indian government in a report earlier this month:
The government — led by the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, which has deep roots in the country’s Hindu nationalist movement — said in an application to the Supreme Court that the transgender ruling “may pose problems both practically and politically” and asked for clarifications and changes.The application complained that the court’s finding that the term transgender people can also apply to gay, lesbian and bisexual Indians, “seeks to create an ambiguity.”
Colin Gonsalves, a lawyer and founder of the Human Rights Law Network, told the Journal the government conservatives were “stonewalling.”
Prakash herself faced harassment over her gender identity that forced her to drop out of college. Her family disowned her at age 13, and she stopped speaking to them. Now, she, her partner and their foster son are providing a picture of happiness and resilience as they overcome obstacles in a country where the fight for trans rights is still very much underway.
“I knew that she was a tough and determined person,” Rose Venkatesan, India’s first transgender television talk show host, told the Times of India. “I knew she was capable of handling the pressure.”
h/t The Advocate