Kritika Singh, a 22-year-old transsexual girl changed the course of gender-based law by challenging the government policy on “Mandatory Sex Reassignment surgery certificate” (commonly known as SRS Certificate) for trans people while applying for the identity change on official papers. Earlier, it was necessary to produce the SRS Certificate to apply for gender and name change on the official documents. Kritika became the first person on the central gazette to get her name and identity changed without producing the SRS Certificate. This major achievement that has benefited thousands of people across the country was possible after a long-lasting legal battle with the government. She tells her story of grit and persistence in an exclusive interview with “The Logical Indian”.
About Kritika (name changed)
Kritika, who hails from Lucknow, came to Delhi at a tender age of 17. This phase of her life as she says was full of turbulence, confusion and struggle. Being a good student, she had successfully cleared the state entrance exam for engineering and was able to move out. As a teenager who was already battling the disconnect between her inner self and assigned sex, she had a lot of other struggles to cope with as well. “I had the body of a guy at that time so I had to stay in the boy’s hostel. I was mocked by my fellow hostellers for having an effeminate mannerism. I was depressed. There was nobody with whom I could share my feelings. On top of everything I had a career to establish,” she says.
Kritika, who is now a shining example of courage for millions of people in this country, suffered acute discrimination and abuse before her transition. In an exclusive interview with The Logical Indian, she harks back to some bone-chilling incidences during her college days. She recalls how five men of the hostel attempted to rape her on the night of her electronics and communication examination. She says, “I had my EC paper the next day for which I was studying at 2 am in the night when four-five guys attempted to rape me. This happened when I was still a male. I could not understand who to complain. It was a time when people were alien to the idea that men can perversely leach over men. I wanted to commit suicide.”
Kritika aspired to become financially independent so that she could initiate her transition process from a male body to that of a female. But for her, things did not go as planned. “After the rape attempt, I left my studies and ran away. I flunked in my papers. I also had the pressure to repay my education loan. My plan to have a good career in order to start my transition was falling apart. As a guy, I was also expected to take care of my family. Among all this my battle of delinked mind and body was perpetual. Life had knocked me out on all fronts”, she said.
Journey from male to female (The transition phase)
After leaving the hostel, Kritika moved into a PG where she lived alone. She recalls, “In the PG, all that I had was my laptop, phone and internet. This was when I began to explore more about transitioning and my life took a turn.” The only impediment that towered in front of Kritika was the expense required to begin the medical transition of her body from male to female. She continued, “To save money, I literally stopped eating. I ate for only six to seven days a month. I saved money by not eating. Within half a year, I somehow managed to save about twenty thousand rupees. With that money, I was able to finally start my ‘female hormone induction therapy’ (2nd stage of the sex change process, 1st being the psychiatrist counselling important to determine the psychological state of a person to undergo transition).” The transition required Kritika to eat well which in turn required more money than what she had saved.
This was the time when her hunt for a job began. The grapple did not end there. People refused to give her a job. Not only this, she was asked to vacate the room thrice in different places because landlords were not comfortable renting it out to her. All, just for being herself! She did not give up and continued to look for a job even in the face of humiliation and discrimination. Eventually, she landed up a job at a call center and also managed to find a roof above her head in Lakshmi Nagar area, New Delhi. But the work atmosphere at the call center was not what she had expected. Her transitioning body was in the process of undergoing many changes. Development of breasts was one of them. She recalls the misconduct meted out to her by the security guards, “Waha ka male guard mujhe mere breasts pe touch kar ke maze leta tha (The male guard over there used to touch my breast area and take cheap pleasure). All my complaint fell on deaf ears.” Eventually, Kritika had to switch several jobs before finally meeting supportive colleagues at IBM, Gurgaon.
The ‘official’ identity
Kritika, whose transition had already begun, was living a stressful dual life. Her body had started to show a feminine demeanour. Her male body diminished to an extent that it almost became unnoticeable. People started to refer to her as “Ma’am or Miss”. But all her official identity cards had male name and gender while she socially lived a female life.
Kritika, who now had a job, had yet another fight to get her documents changed. She says, “In the present world, it is mandatory to produce an identity card at every level. Be it buying a sim card or travelling in a train, getting a job or taking a loan, identity card remains a primary requisite. I needed my identity card to renew my rent agreement and police verification. But my identity card did not match me.”
Kritika tried to get her ID Card changed to that of a female with her name but the government policy of mandatory SRS Certificate was a huge impediment. Kritika says that she did not have enough money to fund her surgery at that time. “Surgery is the last step of sex change. Not everybody can afford it. So many trans women live life as a female after the hormone therapy, without surgery. They all have to go through the identity change issue. People discriminate when they see our documents. When they see that we are different, they immediately start to discriminate.”
Her fight with the government that made history
Kritika could see no option but to pull up her socks and challenge the authority against the wrong being done not just to her but the entire community which faces similar issues. In the year 2016, Kritika moved to Delhi High Court and filed a case against the government to change the protocol that did not allow transsexuals to change the gender on their identity card without producing the SRS Certificate.
Delhi High Court did not take the matter very seriously. One year slipped by without the court taking any action. Kritika, on the other hand, said that she had to take admission in graduation as she had left her studies to take up a job. But she was not able to do so because of her documents. She then decided to send presentations to the Prime Minister and the President. After sending several letters and presentations to the different ministries repeatedly, she finally started to get a response.
Kritika was invited for a meeting with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Social Justice that currently deals with transgender bills, Ministry of Law and Justice that is a legal advisor to the government and Ministry of Urban Development being the most significant one as it deals with all matters of name and identity change. But even then, the files were just being circulated from one ministry to another.
As a conclusion, Kritika was told that the policy can’t be changed as it may create an opportunity for perpetrators to commit crimes and then easily change the entire identity to escape prosecution. Kritika in her response said, “What is it that is not being misused? Everything including position, power, services are exploited. It should be the state’s responsibility to prevent misuse instead of depriving thousands of people their right to freely live and express themselves.” She also said, “If for whatever reason the government can’t change the policy then it should provide financial help to everyone who wants to get the surgery and make a different policy for those who do not wish to undergo a surgery or is not under the medical condition to be able to stand a surgery. (average cost INR 3-4 lakhs).”
After several such exasperating arguments and countless visits to the ministries, Kritika began to spot loopholes in government policies. The legal Performa of the government policy demanded “legal/medical” document for gender change application. “Legal document aur medical document ke beech slash tha which means dono me se ek chahiye. (There was a slash between the legal document and the medical document which clearly means that either of the document is required.)” Joint Secretary of the Urban Development Ministry (PSP Division), SK Ram who was very impressed asked Kritika to send in a formal letter. On the recommendation of an MP, Kritika had successfully got her Aadhar Card made followed by her PAN Card. This made her realize that the process is not all that difficult as the ‘babus’ claim. Since she had a legal document, she argued that the SRS Certificate is not mandatory.
Another important factor that was brought up by Kritika was an outright disregard to the NALSA judgement that gives equal fundamental rights to the ‘transgender & transsexual’. Therefore, restraining people of the third gender to live as they want is a violation of Article 21- Right to life and liberty.
The Government of India finally had to give in to the rational arguments. Kritika was successful in getting her gender changed under the new identity without the SRS Certificate. She became the first trans girl to get her gender and identity changed without the mandatory SRS Certificate at the national level. The new sex change policy has now been incorporated in the ‘Gazette of India’.
This major policy change by the Government of India has brought refreshing exhilaration in the lives of thousands of transsexual people across the country. This victory is definitely a resounding nod to the power of will and grit of one person to change the world.
What is Kritika doing currently?
Kritika, who is now a beautiful wife to someone, is living a normal social life besides doing a job in Gurgaon. However, she wants to do her graduation from IGNOU. But she still has her old name and gender in her 12th marksheet from before her surgery. Kritika approached both the UP Board and the UP Government to help her correct the marksheet. She even showed the Supreme Court judgement and the NALSA judgement to them but they have been pretty insensitive so far. Kritika is presently trying to work for the rights of trans people not just in Delhi but also in her home state Uttar Pradesh, ‘not as an activist but as an individual’ whose motto is welfare.
The Logical Indian take
Inflicting identity crisis upon the transgender & transsexual people not only keeps them from living a life with dignity but also starves the nation of a potential workforce that in turn can contribute abundantly in the country’s economic and social growth.
The Logical Indian applauds the efforts taken by Kritika Singh, a survivor and a go-getter, who forced the government to change the policy for the better.