Transgender awarded honorary doctorate in Bengaluru

Akkai Padmashali, from now she will be known as Dr Akkai Padmashali. The sexual minority activist and co-founder of Ondede is the first transgender in the country to be conferred with an honorary doctorate.

Akkai Padmashali is a male to female Transwoman, social activist. Her journey is one of courage and determination. Born a male in a middle-class family, she discontinued her studies after 10th grade due to gender discrimination. She took up sex work to make ends meet.

Akkai, who has been the voice of the sexual minority and has inspired many in the battle against gender prejudice was bestowed with the doctorate by the Indian Virtual University for Peace and Education at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan on Tuesday.

“It just came as such an unexpected happening and I was so confused as to why would they (IVUP) want to bestow a class 10 failure with such an honor?” said Akkai. “They told me that it was my dedication towards social activism and towards the sexual minority that has drawn their attention as well.”

But for Akkai, the journey doesn’t end right here. “Yes, it is a great honor but what is next? I asked the Vice Chancellors who were present there. They have verbally promised that there will be more honours awarded to the members of our community. It is after all, a part of the mainstreaming process.”

In 2012, Padmashali was invited by the President of India to attend the swearing in ceremony of the Hon’ble Chief Justice Shri Altamas Kabir, Supreme Court of India, and was invited by His Excellency Governor of Kerala to attend the swearing in ceremony of the Hon’ble Chief Justice Smt Manjula Chellur of the Kerala High Court.

In 2013, she joined Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz, a community radio station licensed to Jain University to head the project “Out of Shadows”. The project was aimed at strengthening advocacy for women, sexual minorities, and sex workers.

In 2014, she co-founded Ondede, an organization of feminists, activists, thinkers, and academics who recognized the need to converge the interests of three movements in the country – children’s rights, women’s rights, and the rights of sexual minorities.

In October 2014, Padmashali was the only one person from India to be invited by the International Bar Association to address the social and legal status of sexual minorities at the national conference in Tokyo, Japan. A full year later, Padmashali became the first transgender awarded the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award, the second highest civilian honor presented by the Karnataka state government for her work in Social Sector.