TW: Queerphobia, Violence, Abuse, Graphic Images
Gopi Shankar Madurai, founder of the Srishti Madurai volunteer movement and former member of the National Council for Transgender persons, who resigned as a protest against the ‘ceremonial’ nature of their position, has been brutally attacked in the national capital by an unknown group of 6 people.
Gopi Shankar was taking a stroll in Karol Bagh after dinner on the 12th of November, when this incident occurred. The attackers surrounded them and asked for money, and attacked Gopi Shankar when they refused, according to news reports. They suffered severe injuries to the eye, nose, face, and hands, and have undergone 2 minor surgeries.
A case has been filed under the IPC:
1. Section 323 for voluntarily causing harm & hurt
2. Section 341, which seeks punishment for wrongful restraint
3. Section 34, due to being identified as an act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention
This news comes on the heels of several requests by Gopi Shankar since 2021 for security and protection from the governing authorities, after receiving threats to their life and safety from various groups. This is the 5th instance of violence that they have suffered, and the first 4 instances were in their home-state of Tamil Nadu.
Intersex Asia, where Gopi Shankar formerly served as a board member, has released a statement condemning the attack as well as lack of action against those who have perpetrated the crime.
This raises the question of safety of several intersex and genderqueer activists in the country who speak truth to power and reject seemingly progressive legislation, in favour of systemic changes.
Gopi Shankar had resigned from the National Council for Transgender Persons, where they were the south regional representative, citing bureaucratic insensitivity and harassment. They were the only intersex person on the council. They had also complained of transphobic behaviour from administrative officials in Mamallapuram, which they had filed formal complaints about, to no avail from law enforcement agents.
This feeds into the larger critique of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, which did not seem to have been rolled out in consultation or with the consent of the large and varied transgender population in India. It was also met with nationwide protests upon being passed in the Lok Sabha.
Gopi Shankar is the first openly intersex person to have contested in the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections in 2016 and also coined the Tamil term, ‘paalputhumaiyinar’ to refer to genderqueer people in 2011. An attack of a queer person of such public standing, with little acknowledgement from various authorities and institutions of power, is sure to send a jolt of fear, grief, and upset through the veins of the LGBTQIA+ community in India, due to concerns of safety in public activism.
Much of mainstream media persons who publicly reacted to the Iranian women’s movement and spoke out in their support, often ignore the systematised gender-based violence that affects our own population.