Chennai :  Classification of the transgender is a debate that has raged since the days of mythology. However, even as governments and civil society are seeking to empower them by recognising them as a third gender, a curious legal battle is being waged at a court in Chennai.

A group of 11 transgenders, who were arrested four years ago for allegedly abducting a 15-year old school boy and pushing him into flesh trade after a sex-change surgery, have questioned the legal basis of their prosecution at the Mahila Court.

Their argument is that neither the accused transgender nor the victim was a woman and, therefore, the Mahila Court cannot exercise jurisdiction over the case. Legally a Mahila court deals with cases where a woman is the victim.

In the instant case, the Mahila Court in Chennai is conducting trial against the 11 transgenders who were taken into custody after the boy’s parents lodged a complaint that they had abducted him in 2006. Three years later, the boy had returned home as a transgender and narrated how he was pushed into sex trade by the other transgenders in Andhra Pradesh.

Challenging the trial, the accused transgenders have moved the Principal Sessions Court arguing that as a gender they belonged to either male or female categories. “We have been official described as ‘Aravanis’ (transgenders or third gender). The so called victim was also a boy when the alleged offence happened. Therefore, since neither of us — the accused and victim — are women, the Mahila Court cannot conduct the trial,” their counsel has contended.

In its response the Anti Trafficking Cell of the Chennai contended that though the victim was a boy when the offences were committed, “he always wanted to be a woman.” The counter petition quoted a speech made by Chief Justice of India Justice P Sathasivam, three years ago, and said the transgenders had a right to choose to be a male or female. “Therefore, the victim shall be treated as a female since he wished to become female,” the police counter said.

The judge is expected to pronounce his verdict soon.

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