Meet Ashwathi Rajappan - India’s First Intersex Lok Sabha Candidate

Meet Ashwathi Rajappan - India’s First Intersex Lok Sabha Candidate
The Hindu

Ashwathi Rajappan, lovingly called Chinju by friends and family, has been the first openly intersex candidate contesting in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 from Ernakulam, Kerala. At 25 years of age, Ashwathi is perhaps one of the youngest candidates to contest for the Lok Sabha. A postgraduate degree holder from Mahatma Gandhi University of Kerala, Ashwathi had contested against Ernakulam sitting MLA Hibi Eden, Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Alphons Kannanthanam and former Rajya Sabha MP P. Rajeev. This is a historic moment for queer-Dalit visibility in India. The human rights community in Kerala which plays an active role in Sahayathrika, a LGBTQIA+ welfare organisation based in Thrissur, had conducted a pride march in Chennai in 2016, through which Ashwathi had the opportunity to meet them.

According to Ashwathi, even though the Kerala State Transgender Policy introduced in 2015 recognises self-identification of gender, and validates all kinds of gender identities, trans, queer as well as gender-fluid people continue to be discriminated against. When the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 was being discussed in the parliamentary committee, Ashwathi had gone to present zir position. The humiliation faced by Ashwathi made zim decide that this situation needed to change. As a mouthpiece for the entire community, Ashwathi decided to contest the elections.

The greatest source of strength had been Ashwathi’s mother, who refused to listen to any doctor who encouraged sex-change surgery for Ashwathi.

Being intersex, transgender, and Dalit, Ashwathi belongs to a section of people who are doubly-marginalised-both for their gender identity, as well as for their caste. Ashwathi’s politics is a queer-Ambedkarite one, which includes a focus on both social and economic issues and understanding how those overlap. Ashwathi realises that the government had not been proactive enough to work for the upliftment of the poor Dalit communities in Ernakulam city, and hopes that the biggest challenges – access to food, education, healthcare, dignity - facing marginalised youth today would be taken care of in the near future.

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