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Sexual harassment and sex trade plagues annual transgender festival in India

Sexual harassment and sex trade plagues annual transgender festival in India

The annual Koovagam festival in Tamil Nadu, India has just come to end, drawing hundreds of transgender women from across the country. But some trans woman have stayed away this year over fear of sexual harassment.

Several transgender women recounted how bad experiences at previous festivals have kept them away from the festival.

‘Some men dragged me in to the dark when I was leaving the temple,’ said Puja, a trans woman, or hijra, to The New Indian Express. ‘I somehow managed to escape. They find every chance to grope us. It’s only getting worse.’

Puja said there was no police protection from men who came from local villages to take advantage of the trans women at the festival.

In another report from New Indian Express local residents complained about unabashed sex soliciting and acts openly happening in fields around Koovagam village.

“Koovagam was like any other religious site. But of late, it has become a prostitution site,’ Ramamurthy, a local resident, said to New Indian Express.

‘Only some transgenders are involved in sex trade at Koovagam, bringing a bad name to the community. Police needs to curb this practice from next year.’

The festival is celebrated for 18 days every April around the Koothandavar Temple in Koovagam village. Transgender women visit the temple every year to reenact the story of the god Krishna who disguised himself as a woman, Mohini, to marry Aravaan, a great warrior who was about to be sacrificed.

The hijras celebrate the wedding and, the next day, mourn the funeral of Aravaan (also called Koothandavar) by wailing and breaking their bangles.