I’m Santa Khurai, 38 years old and live in Imphal East district. I’m a trans woman. For the last 10-15 years I have been working as a gender rights activist, striving for recognition of the rights of the gender and sexual minority communities.
During the course of my work, I have come across many happy and sad moments. However, since the last few weeks, my mind has been deeply troubled by frequent incidents of rape of minor girls. Altogether five minor girls were brutally gang-raped in separate incidents as per news reports.
These incidents remind me that rape and other sexual violence is an integral part of the lives of many trans women too. Many of us have been raped and/or molested at an early age – mostly by neighbours or even family members.
I too was raped when I was in class VI. I don’t even know how old I must have been then – maybe around 11 or 12. As children we would play around in the neighbourhood, and taking advantage of this, a male neighbour called me in and asked me to massage his back. He too stroked my back as people do with children. I must have dozed off briefly when I woke up with an intense pain and found that he was raping me.
Terrified and in great pain, I somehow ran away from the room and stood trembling near the open pit latrine nearby. I was weeping copiously. My mother came and asked me why I was crying but I couldn’t even say a word – in a way I was too young to even understand properly what he had done to me. Blood was trickling down my leg. This man came rushing and told my mother that I had problem defecating and hence the blood.
My mother thought I had piles and tried all kinds of home remedies. I was still too scared to tell her the truth. Even today when I recall the pain and horror of that moment I feel very angry. I feel disgusted sometimes with men thinking of their lust which makes them blind to the pain of others.
I’m sure that there are many more cases of sexual violence against trans women, which remain hidden and unreported due to fear of backlash, stigma and discrimination in our patriarchal society. The nature of men taking advantage of our expression and preference of female identity is condemnable.
It needs to be recognized that such heinous acts increase our vulnerability, thereby curtailing our development in all sectors including education and economic activity. This is the reason why I shall continue my fight for gender justice.
Written by Santa Khurai with support from Thingnam Anjulika Samom, freelance journalist and gender rights activist.
Note: Santa Khurai is fourth from the left in the photograph above.