To all those around her, Shanavi Ponnusamy meets all the facets to be an excellent air hostess. But, when she applied for a job at state-run Air India, she was allegedly rejected because of one thing—she’s transgender. The airline’s refusal hurt her so much that she’s sent a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking a “mercy killing”—a practice in India that allows for a legal assisted suicide. “They said we do not have category for transwomen. I have qualification and experience, is it about my gender? Now if I live or die, it is in hands of President,” she told news agency ANI.
What hurt her the most was feeling like she didn’t belong in any category and that there was no future for her. In her letter to the president she wrote: “Now from past two years, 4 times I got a call letter for Air India cabin crew – female post but my name was not in final list. Later I came to know that Air india reserved seats only for female where I cant make cutoff then after long struggle to contact Ministry of civil aviation and Air india replied that as per their recruitment policy they dont have category for 'Transwomen.'"
So why hasn't she applied to a different airline? She writes: “I did not try for another airline because if government airline says there is no category for you, what can we expect from private airlines,” she said.
She first applied to be part of Air India’s cabin crew 2016 but was turned down. She even received the help of a senior officer working in the Civil Aviation Ministry to get the job, but she was again denied.
Ponnusamy’s first reaction wasn’t to seek a mercy killing, she first filed a lawsuit against the airline, but her litigation is currently pending in the apex court. According to Dailyio "The Supreme Court issued notices to Air India and the ministry of civil aviation, and asked them to reply in a month. The authorities are yet to reply, she claims. 'So our Supreme court of india takes step on it and asked Air india and Ministry of Civil aviation to respond with in 4 weeks on 6th nov'17. But till the date there is no response from them and am really facing a survival issue because of denying my basic rights to live in this country,' Ponnusamy’s letter says." Her lawsuit also hopes to create a third gender for transgender men and women who want to apply for a job at the airline.
We hope that her threat of a “mercy killing” is just a threat and a way to expedite her lawsuit against Air India.
India's Supreme Court in 2014 recognized transgender people as a third gender in the country, though, not much has been done to ensure inclusiveness.
You can read the full letter to the president here.
If you or anyone you know is thinking of or threatening suicide, there are so many resources out there for you. Click here for more info.