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Tamil Nadu:

Sathyasri Sharmila of TamilNadu, India’s First Transgender Lawyer (source: Facebook)

Sathyasri Sharmila has made history as the first transgender lawyer of India. She enrolled herself with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP) on Saturday June 30. Born as Udhayakumar in Paramakudi of Ramanathapuram district, Sharmila walked out of her home at the age of 18 following harassment by her neighbours. She subsequently changed her name to Sathyasri Sharmila.

According to Sharmila, her journey so far was full of hardships. “Today I enrolled my name in Bar Council Of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and became the first transgender lawyer in India.

I have struggled a lot in my life. I expect that people from my community will do well and serve at higher positions across the country,” an emotional Sharmila told news agency ANI.

She was among the 485 youngsters who enrolled with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP) in Chennai on Saturday. Sharmila, 36, is a resident of Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu.

In 2004, she joined the Bachelors of Law course in Salem Government College. However, hurdles came in the form of accommodation during this period as she had enrolled as a man but identified as a woman, which made it hard for her to stay in either of the college hostels.

“I completed my B.Com (corporate secretaryship) degree from Paramakudi and was keen to pursue higher studies. It was the plight of our community that made me decide to take up law. I joined Bachelors of Law course in Salem Government College in 2004 and completed the degree in 2007,” she recounted.

“But the moment judges called me as the first transgender lawyer in the state, I had forgotten everything. It made me excited,” Sharmila told HindustanTimes, adding that she was determined to support the transgender community as a lawyer. “without their support, I wouldn’t have made this achievement.”

“I was still not confident about the treatment meted out to the transgender community in the society. But I believe things are gradually changing for us. We are beginning to be recognised after the Supreme Court registered us as third genders in 2014. Therefore, I thought the time has come to register myself as a lawyer. Serving the community is my priority now.”

For over 11 years, Sharmila has worked as a transgender activist. S Rajakumar, secretary, Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry told HT that Sharmila was the first transgender lawyer in the state and would be one among the very few in the country to become a lawyer as far as they know. “She was the only transgender among the 485 persons who had enrolled themselves on Saturday,” he noted.

She received huge praises for her efforts from the Bar Council, “Article 14 of the Constitution states that all are equal and given equal opportunity. The Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Bar Council have taken the right decision. I hope that this will encourage other transgenders to go for higher education and go into various professions like law,” said S. Prabhakaran, co-chairman of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and president of the Tamil Nadu Advocates Association (TNAA).

Last year, Rajasthan Police appointed its first transgender constable, Ganga Kumari following the state High Court’s order. West Bengal also followed the example by appointing Joyita Mondal the Lok Adalat judge of Islampur in North Dinajpur district, giving India its first transgender judge.

However, social acceptance of the trans communities in India remains a distant dream.

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