India's first transgender soldier vows to fight for her job

DN Bureau

Shabi's world turned upside down when reports surfaced that the Navy has recommended to the defense ministry that she be discharged from service.

 Shabi, India's first transgender soldier
Shabi, India's first transgender soldier

Visakhapatnam: Shabi's world turned upside down when reports surfaced that the Navy has recommended to the defense ministry that she be discharged from service.

Shabi, who was born as a male and known as M.K Giri, said in an interview that when the (navy) found out about her sex reassignment surgery, no one had objected or discriminated her.

Shabi joined the Marine Engineering Department of the Eastern Naval Command seven years ago.

Although uncomfortable in the body she was born in, it took her a while to muster the courage to come out as a transgender. And when she did, the doctors in the Navy refused to help her.

In 2016, after waiting for a while, she contacted doctors in Vizag and was later diagnosed with 'Gender Identity Disorder.'

She realized she has no choice then to take leave for twenty-two days and go for a sex reassignment surgery in Delhi.

Post her surgery, she came back to the naval base in Visakhapatnam where she was forced to reveal her sex change operation after she suffered a urinary tract infection.

Despite her sex change, she alleged that she was kept in a male ward with three soldiers standing guard 24x7.

"I was kept in a psychiatric ward for six months and was mentally harassed. The doctors tried to prove that I was mentally unfit to serve in the Navy but they failed," she claimed.

After being discharged from the Navy psychiatric ward on August 12, she resumed her service as a woman though it took a while for people around her to get used to the fact that she is a woman now.

Now, after the Indian Navy reportedly sent her case to the Ministry of Defense, seeking advice on the future course of action, she confronted her Divisional Officer (DO).

She said, "He confirmed it. When I requested to speak to the Commanding Officer, I was told he is not interested in talking to me."

She was obstructed to speak to the media by her DO, threatening her that she will be dismissed from her service since 'women cannot work in defense service.'

According to the Indian Navy policies, there's no place for a 'transgender' but she vowed to fight against such policies.

She insisted that, "I will go to the Supreme Court if I have to and fight for my rights. I am extremely upset at the decision of the Navy to discharge me and will take all legal options possible.''

"I have not lost my potential and still able enough to work in the Navy. I can still pull the trigger of a gun to shoot the enemy, why am I not fit enough to serve my country? I am as much a citizen of India as anyone else."

"I have the same rights as anyone else. I am considering writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek justice," she asserted and questioned: "How can a 'man' the Indian Navy deemed fit for the job suddenly be declared unfit because of an organ change?"

India is yet to catch up on the inclusion of the transgender individuals in the defense forces.

While countries like Canada, Israel, Netherlands, Australia, UK, New Zealand, Sweden and Germany have ensured to include transgenders in their forces.

On the other hand, last week, US President Donald Trump banned transgenders from serving in the military.(ANI)

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