Monday, November 06, 2017

SC backs transgender after Air India grounds her dream

New Delhi: Shanavi Ponnusamy from Thoothukuddi in Tamil Nadu dreamed of flying high above the discrimination she suffered all her life for being a transgender. But public carrier Air India decided to ground her aspirations by rejecting her application to serve as flight cabin crew.

On Monday, a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud decided to take up Ms. Ponnusamy's fight.

The court gave the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air India Ltd. four weeks to respond to Ms. Ponnusamy’s question on how they could discriminate and deny her a job solely for the reason that she is a transgender. Doesn’t a person have the right to gender identity, she asked.
In her petition, the 26-year-old engineering graduate said that in 2014 she underwent gender surgery and thereafter trained to “fulfil her dream of working as a cabin crew of some airlines in India”. She also successfully completed a stint with the Air India's customer support section in Chennai.

In July 2017, she responded to an advertisement published by Air India for women cabin crew to work in its northern region. Ms. Ponnusamy received a call letter the next month and attended the tests. She was, however, not selected, though she believed she had done well in the tests.

“The petitioner learnt reliably that she has not been able to make the cut on account of the fact that she is a transgender and the vacancies in the cabin crew were earmarked only for women. The petitioner has been rejected even though she has the required qualification and experience,” the petition, filed through advocate Praveen Swarup and Suvesh Kumar, submitted.
Ms. Ponnusamy said she had no choice but to apply as a woman because the application form did not have a separate column for transgenders. This was despite a 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court which declared transgenders as the ‘third community’. The apex court had ordered job applications to have a separate column for the third gender. Besides, Ms. Ponnusamy contended she had already done her sex reassignment surgery. The petition said that though the Constitution provided for the fundamental right to equality, it was hardly implemented on the ground. “It is hard to find people who employ transgenders. Some members of society ridicule gender-variant people for being 'different' and they may even be hostile,” she submitted.
06/11/17 Kishnadas Rajagopal/The Hindu