New Delhi: Akkai Padmashali might have become the first transgender in Karnataka to register her marriage but there seems to be no end to her struggles. The activist, who is the face of transgender rights in the state, is currently battling to get a home loan after being rejected by many banks and has now gone online to raise money.
"No bank gave me any logical reason for rejecting my application for a home loan. All they could say was I am not eligible for the loan and nothing more. And I know this is because of my identity -- transgender," Padmashali, 35, told IANS on the phone from Bengaluru.
"I have all the necessary documents to get my loan approved. On what grounds have the banks been refusing me a home loan? How frequently does this happen to a man or a woman? We (transgenders) still have to struggle even for basic facilities," said Padmashali, a receipient of the Karnataka Rajyotsava award to mark the state's foundation.
She then turned to Change.Org, a technology platform for social change which allows people to start and support campaigns on issues that concern them. Padmashali started her online petition asking banks to sanction her home loan.
"I started the petition because I wanted the society to know what the transgender community still faces. The discrimination exists very much for us. Introducing certain acts won't ensure rights for us. Proper implementation is required, which is missing. Society is still prejudiced against us," she added.
Padmashali, like many other transgenders, has been facing severe challenges with securing housing in the city. And with the agreement of her current rented accommodation coming to an end this month, she thought of buying a house in the suburbs of Bengaluru.
"I need a loan of Rs 10 lakh to buy my own house. I have raised some of the money by pledging my mother's jewellery as collateral and with financial support from friends and crowd-funding," she noted.
However, her biggest fear is that if a loan is not approved she might be forced out of her rented accomodation when the lease expires on June 28. She certainly doesn't want to go back on the streets again .
"I don't want to go back as a sex-worker. I deserve a dignified life, all the transgenders deserve the same. Getting a house even on rent is extremely difficult for us. I have no clue where I will live if my loan is not approved," added a worried-sounding Padmashali.
Padmashali has fought a lot earlier to gain well-deserved rights -- for herself and the transgender community as well. Not just the first transgender to get a marriage registration, she was also the first to cast vote in the Third Gender category.
Given the sexual violence that others like her face everyday, Padmashali was motivated to join Sangama, a local NGO that works with sexual minorities.
"Through the NGO, I have dedicated my life to ensuring that the transgender community lives a dignified life. I don't want to keep shifting from house to house again and again. In fact, I refuse to shift houses anymore," she asserted.
Having crossed many hurdles to achieve an identity of her own, Padmashali believes that her online petition will translate into her right to buy a house.
"It is sad and demoralising that the banking process is so slow and there is such a huge delay for a mere loan Rs 10 lakh which I am capable of repaying. I would like the banks to stop delaying the process and act speedily. If I am forced out on the street, they should feel responsible," she said.
With more than 5,000 people signing the petition, Padmashali is hopeful that the private and corporate banks will listen to her need and will grant her the home loan.
"This is an opportunity for Indian banks to set a good example by not discriminating, by making a life of dignity, with the privilege of having a home, accessible to people like me," she hoped.