A TV news station in Tamil Nadu has recruited what is believed to be the country’s first transgender news presenter, five months after the Supreme Court recognized transgender people as a legal third gender.
Padmini Prakash, 31, who works at Lotus News, told the Times of India that she had faced a lot of discrimination throughout her life, including being disowned by her family.
She worked as a dancer and then acted in Tamil soap operas before joining the news channel.
Prakash said it was daunting to take such a high profile role.
“I was very worried because I also had to focus on my diction and maintain a steady narrative pace to ensure that there was clarity and viewers could understand me,” said Prakash.
Campaigners say there are hundreds of thousands of transgender people in India but because they were not legally recognised, they have been ostracised, faced discrimination, abuse and often forced into prostitution.
In April, India’s Supreme court recognised transgender as a legal third gender and, in a landmark judgement welcomed by human rights groups, called on the government to ensure their equal treatment.
India was not the first country to give legal recognition to the transgender community.
Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh have also legally recognised a third gender.
Prakash became so popular with viewers after joining the station last month that she was quickly promoted to become the face of the Coimbatore-based Lotus News Channel’s daily 7 p.m. special bulletin.
“We are very supportive of Padmini …. after initial trials, we were convinced that she had the potential to be an excellent news anchor,” Lotus News Channel Chairman G.K.S. Selvakumar told the newspaper.
Padmini certainly has had a better head start than most transgender people in India.
Apart from campaigning for her community, she is also a former transgender beauty queen, a dance teacher and actress.
A recent census found 490,000 Indians identified as transgenders or hijras, although that figure is believed to be much higher.