Former US president Obama is leads a very active social life even after his term as President is over. He is associated with Obama Foundation and came to India for an event organized by them in Delhi.
On December 1, Obama took part in the discussion “what it means to be an active citizen and make an impact”.
He is known as a smart and passionate leader and it showed while he answered many tricky questions during the question and answer session. A transgender rights activist from Bengaluru, Dr. Akkai Padmashali, put the former president in a tight spot by asking a relevant question.
She introduced herself as a former sex worker and beggar who is rejected by all sections of the society. She asked how can she raise her voice against any discrimination towards her as she is tagged a criminal by the section 377 of the Indian law which sees transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual people as criminal.
“Mr. President, I wish a great success for the Obama Foundation. I am a transgender woman. My name is Dr. Akkai Padmashali. I was a sex worker. I was a beggar. I was rejected by all the sections of society. And I am the black beauty. And I love you.”
She went on to say that the state is targeting minority sections based on sex, creed, class and religion and there is nothing that can be done about it on her part.
“When the state terror is against minorities – be it transgender, sexual minority, caste, class, creed, religious – when you have been stigmatised, when you’ve been discriminated and patriarchal power and domination is against you – I am a criminal before Section 377 which criminalises transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual – how do I then raise my voice?”
Mr. Obama gave a perfect response to her which touched hears. He started by saying that he is not qualified enough to speak about the legal matters involving the minorities of India as he is not up to date with all the latest developments.
“I can’t speak to the specifics of legislation in India because I’m not qualified, I’ve not been keeping pace with exactly what’s happening in the parliament around these kind of issues.”
However, he said that she is on the right path as she found her voice and shared her experiences as it helps the majority to find humanity in the minor voices. People start seeing themselves in the minorities and stop marginalizing them.
“It begins with what you just did, which is to find your voice, and articulate your views, your experiences and tell your story. And that’s true of any group that is marginalised, stigmatised. Finding that voice and being able to tell a story so that the perceptions that somehow you are different are changed… people start recognising their own experiences in you, they see your humanity.”
He also said:
“Once that voice is there, hopefully, others join you.”
Hence it is very important for any minority group to speak up. He then installed hope in her and said that once she finds her voice, others will join her in the fight.