Two years after dismissal, transwoman may get Navy job back
Almost two years after she was dismissed from the Indian Navy for undergoing a sex reassignment surgery, Sabi Giri is one step from getting reinstated in the force.
The 27-year-old transwoman, who was a sailor, said the Navy has agreed to take her back on a lower division clerk level starting November – if she clears an exam. An official at the Navy confirmed the development.
“I am so happy to have my job back. I won’t be a sailor anymore but at least I will have my pay and all my benefits,’’ said Giri from Patna. Since her controversial dismissal in October 2017, Sabi has been living with the trans community and getting by with traditional methods of entertaining at weddings.
A Navy official said on condition of anonymity that the LDC-level position was the only alternative available in the case. “She couldn’t have gone back to the ship. So the tradesman job is the best thing to do. I am confident she will clear the exam and then she can come back,’’ the official added.
The tradesman post refers to a specialised workforce, such as fitters, mechanics or clerks, that can be utilised anywhere – especially in naval dockyards.
Sabi earlier served with the marine engineering wing at the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam. She moved to the administrative wing after her surgery that she underwent in at a hospital in Mumbai while on a 22-day leave in 2016. When she was dismissed in 2017, the Navy cited existing service rules and regulations for the decision.
“The existing service rules and regulations do not permit the sailor’s continued employment owing to his altered gender status, medical condition and resultant employability restrictions,’’ read a statement issued by the Navy at the time of her dismissal. Giri had altered her gender status from the one she was recruited for at the time of induction, the Navy had added.
Giri challenged the decision in the Delhi high court. “They first offered her a contractual job. She completely rejected it,’’ said her lawyer Amritananda Chakravorty, “That’s not just because of the permanent status but also because she was getting half her salary,’’ she added.
During the hearings in August, the judges summoned Giri on August 14, 2019. “The judges took me to their chamber and I told them everything,’’ said Giri. The judges nudged the lawyers from both sides and officials of the Navy to come up with a solution.
Giri now plans to return to Delhi later this month and prepare for the exam “We want her to come quick so that she can prepare,’’ said Chakravorty.
Her lawyers pointed out that the job offer doesn’t have any impact on the ongoing legal challenge to her dismissal. “This offer was without prejudice to her contention that her termination was unlawful,’’ said Tripti Tandon of Lawyer’s Collective.
Chakravorty also said that the Navy shouldn’t just go by her formal qualifications – a high school graduate. “She has served the Navy for seven years, which has to be counted while deciding which post she is eligible for. If she had not joined Navy, she could have pursued higher education and got a better rank,” she added.
Activists said it was extremely rare for transgender people to win such legal battles. “It is very,very rare in the public sector and almost never happens in the private sector where marginalised communities bear the brunt of hire and fire policies,’’ said Vyajanti Vasanta Mogli, an activist based in Hyderabad.