India navy sailor sacked after sex change surgery

  • Sabi, formerly Manish Giri, vows to fight for justice
  • In 2014, the supreme court recognised transgender people as third gender

NEW DELHI – An Indian naval officer, who was discharged from service after undergoing sex replacement surgery, is going to appeal to the military court against her sacking.

A navy statement said its “rules and regulations do not permit the sailor’s continued employment” because of “irreversible gender reassignment”.

Sabi, formerly Manish Giri, joined the Indian navy in 2010. She had undergone the surgery in August last year at a hospital in Mumbai while on leave.

She has alleged that when she returned to work, she was confined to a psychiatric ward for nearly five months, the Hindustan Times reported.

“It was like being in jail,” she said, adding that she will also write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard.

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“I remain the same old person with same efficiency. How can they discharge me … just because I underwent a sex change surgery?” she asked.

“I will move the Supreme Court, if required, to fight for my right,” Sabi said, adding she was seeking legal counsel in this regard.

The Indian navy, which is yet to respond to her allegations, had on Monday in a statement said Giri had been discharged under the clause “Service No Longer Required” under the force’s regulations.

“The individual chose to undergo irreversible gender re-assignment on his own accord, whilst on leave wilfully altering his gender status from the one he was recruited for at the time of his induction,” it had said.

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Sabi, who was earlier serving with the marine engineering wing at the Eastern Naval Command Visakhapatnam, moved to the administrative wing after sex reassignment surgery.

She rejoined the navy in April, and received a letter discharging her from service on 6 October.

An Indian Court ruled in 2012 that there was no legal bar to an adult man having a sex change surgery. And in a landmark ruling in 2014, India’s Supreme Court also recognised transgender people as a third gender.

“I am not a criminal, I have done nothing wrong, I have only revealed my true identity,” Sabi said, adding that she would fight for “justice”.

But legal experts say that transgender people in India are in a strange situation: on the one hand, they are legally recognised and protected under the Constitution, but on the other hand they may have been judged to be breaking the law if they have consensual gay sex.

According to a 153-year-old colonial-era law, a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence” and punishable by a 10-year jail term.