Trans women arrested and ‘forced to confess’ in India

LGBTQ+ activists in India waving LGBTQ+ flags.

The arrest of a group of trans women in India, accused of pretending to be transgender, has prompted criticism from LGBTQ+ activists.

At least 19 trans women were arrested on charges of extortion and begging in the southern city of Hyderabad, deputy police commissioner Chandana Deepti told journalists.

Police arrested the group in connection with an extortion racket, which the women, who were “pretending to be transgender [to extort] money”, were part of, Deepti claimed.

She also claimed that the police “suspect” two of the 19 to be trans, since they had both undergone gender-affirming surgeries.

“The rest of them have confessed that they are males. They were disguised as women to make people believe that they were transgender. That’s how they were extorting [money from people],” Deepti said.

However, Simran, an LGBTQ+ activist and trans woman working to free the group, alleged they had been forced to confess.

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“When I met the [arrested individuals] at the police station, they told me the police personnel harassed them a lot, insulting and abusing them, before forcing them to change their clothes into what men wear,” she said.

The accusations have sparked a fierce backlash from the Indian transgender community, who have been historically marginalised in the country.

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‘Medical examination’

Deepti has been thrust into the spotlight after she told south Indian publication The News Minute (TNM) that the individuals had been detained for “medical examination” to determine whether they were transgender or not.

She defined trans people as individuals with “biological deformities” who have not “fully developed [genital] organs” and have a “tendency of dressing up like women”.

Activists have reacted with shock at her comments, which they say are representative of the lack of understanding among police officials and highlighted the lack of sensitivity training that officers receive in India.

Trans rights activist Meera Sanghamitra told TNM that the officer had clearly conflated trans people with intersex individuals, saying: “These are two very different categories. Some trans persons can be intersex persons and vice versa.

“But not all intersex persons are transgender, neither are all trans persons intersex.

“A lot of trans persons continue to have sexual organs which have been there since birth. That does not in any way make them less of a trans person. Your genitals are different from what gender you self-identify with.”

According to the community-driven LGBTQ+ rights index Equaldex, India is 42nd out of 197 countries in terms of LGBTQ+ rights.

While the public perception of queer people in India has improved dramatically during the past few years, LGBTQ+ people still face social and legal restrictions.

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