India: Trans woman runs for parliament as independent anti-corruption candidate

An Indian trans woman has become the first ever to run for a seat in parliament, as an independent candidate.

Bharathi Kannamma, 53, said she hopes to build on the momentum of this month’s court ruling that legally recognised people of a third gender for the first time, and condemned discrimination.

She will run in the city of Madurai, in Tamil Nadu state, with polling day due to be held on Thursday.

She told AFP: “Even when people come to see me talk, they have certain set notions.

“It is only when they hear what I have to say and see me in person that they can get past the fact that I am a transgender.

“I have nothing to fear and I have no vested interest in being corrupt and the people see that.”

Kannamma, who has a master’s degree in sociology, was previously area sales manager at a bank in Madurai.

After coming out in 2004, she left her job, and set up a foundation dedicated to helping hijras living below the poverty line.

She says that raising trans people out of poverty is the key to acceptance, and that through helping them access education and employment opportunities, they can be seen as a valuable part of society.

“When transgenders make an economic contribution to their families, families will also hesitate to shun them.”