Meet India’s First Transgender Lawyer

Meet India’s First Transgender Lawyer

A landmark moment for India’s transgender community occurred this Saturday. In a ceremony held at the Madras High Court, Sathyasri Sharmila was enroled with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, making her India’s first transgender lawyer. Sharmila’s enrollment comes on the heels of a number of milestones for transgender people in India - India’s first transgender Lok Adaalat judge, Joyitha Mondal, was appointed last July, and India’s first transgender constable, Ganga Kumari, was appointed last November.

36-year-old Sathyasri Sharmila is from Paramkudi that lies in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu. She graduated with an L.L.B from Salem Central Law College in 2007. However, she stalled her enrolment with the Bar Council for over a decade as she did not feel confident that her transgender identity would be accepted. At Sharmila’s enrolment, Justice PN Prakash of the Madras High Court expressed his support for her. He also hoped that there would soon be a transgender High Court judge.

Sharmila’s journey has been a difficult one. In spite of having family support, she left her family home in Paramkudi at 18 to join a transgender community in Kancheepuram as she faced opposition and abuse from neighbours.

Prior to studying law, Sharmila was a transgender rights activist and studied company secretaryship, but enroled as a law student out of a greater desire to help the transgender community. While at college, Sharmila had difficulty finding accommodation as she was unable to stay in the college hostel due to her transgender status.

“But the moment judges called me as the first transgender lawyer in the state, I had forgotten everything. It made me excited,” said Sharmila in an interview with the Hindustan Times. She states, “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.”

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