MALAPPURAM: Riya, a Perinthalmanna-based transgender activist, was just a social worker and a small scale entrepreneur. But on Monday, her world changed inside a courtroom at Manjeri District Court, as she sat on a panel of the judges of a Lok Adalat. She has now become Kerala’s first transgender judge, thanks to the efforts of the Malappuram District Legal Services Authority (DLSA).
On the first day as a judge, she heard quite many cases involving road accidents and disputes as compared to nine other benches of the National Lok Adalat held at Manjeri. “Acceptance from the judiciary is a great step forward, and it sends a clear message to the society that the transgender community cannot always be a neglected lot,” says Riya.
She is a trained paralegal volunteer for more than a year working with the Perinthalmanna municipality and the police station which made her way to the bench easy. “Though it was not a permanent appointment, Riya would again be inducted as a judge in the upcoming district and taluk level adalats too,” says Rajan Thattil, secretary of the District Legal Services Authority who co-chaired the bench with Riya in the Adalat. “Lok Adalat can appoint social workers with credibility as judges. Riya was inducted as a social worker with experience in legal aid services and not because she is transgender,” he said.
“Riya has helped the bench to understand the social impact of road accidents as she herself was a victim of such a mishap. This was the court which heard the highest number of disposal of cases in the district on Monday’s adalats.” Besides volunteering with legal services, Riya also works as a fashion designer and runs a hostel for migrant labourers at Perinthalmanna. “Our hope is that we can reach out to the transgender community through Riya and provide them legal support and aids for their grievances,” Mr Rajan said.