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Gopi Shankar Madurai (Tamil: கோபி ஷங்கர் மதுரை, born 13 April 1991[1]) is an Indian equal rights and Indigenous rights activist.[2] Shankar was one of the youngest, and the first openly intersex and genderqueer, candidates to contest in 2016 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election.[3][4][5][6] Shankar is also the founder of Srishti Madurai Student Volunteer Collective.[7]Shankar’s work inspired the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) to direct the Government of Tamil Nadu to order a ban on sex reassignment surgeries on intersex children.[8]In December 2017 Shankar was elected to the Executive board of ILGA Asia.[9][10][11]

Gopi Shankar Madurai
Gopi Shankar Madurai at WorldPride SUMMIT Madrid 01.jpg
Gopi Shankar Madurai at WorldPride Madrid Summit, Spain (June 2017)
Born (1991-04-13) 13 April 1991 (age 28)
EducationAmerican College, Madurai
OccupationWriter, Speaker, Equal Rights Activist
AwardsThe Commonwealth Nations Youth Worker Award 2016, HCR Queen's Young Leader Award 2017.

Early lifeEdit

Shankar was born as Sarvapunya in Sellur slum at Madurai, Tamil Nadu. At the age of fourteen, Shankar started volunteering Ramakrishna Mission. Later Shankar was accepted as a probationer for being a monk at Ramakrishna Math. On 2005, Shankar was given spiritual initiation under the spiritual lineage of Swami Vivekananda by Swami Gitanandaji (Former Vice-president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission) who is also a disciple of Swami Virajananda. During Shankar's tenure in Ramakrishna Math, Shankar served as the assistant to the editor of Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam Magazine.[12] On April 2010 Shankar left Ramakrishna Math to pursue Religion, Philosophy, and Sociology studies at The American College in Madurai (affiliated to Madurai Kamaraj University). Gopi is a student of Yoga for more than 15 years and served as Yoga Instructor for 5 years. Shankar taught Yoga for free to more than 5000 children and Indian Philosophy class for many westerners including Tony MacMahon of Ireland. Shankar partly freelanced the New Horizon Media Pvt Ltd (Tamil Publications).[6] Shankar was awarded a Leadership Degree "Leading Change" exclusively for The Queen's Young Leaders from the University of Cambridge on 2017.[13]

Social activismEdit

Shankar is founder of Srishti Madurai Volunteer Movement[14] one of the first inclusive non-funded pro bono group of its kind which has involved academicians, Independent scholars, human rights activist, environmentalists, animal rights activists and LGBTQIA, genderqueer activists aiming to protect the Indigenous traditions. On October 2011 Shankar launched India's first helpline for genderqueer, LGBTQIA people at Madurai. Later in June 2013 the helpline turned to offer service for 24 hours with a tagline Just having someone understanding to talk to can save a life.[15] Shankar also organized Asia's first Genderqueer Pride Parade at Madurai.[16][17][18] Shankar also introduced LGBTQIA courses in few schools and universities curciculam[19] Shankar was also a young panelist to share chair in University Grants Commission of India (UGC) and Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (ICSSR) sponsored National Seminars in India, Shankar conducted more than 85 Seminars, Interactive sessions on Gender & Sexuality for 8000 students in Madurai.[20] Shankar coined the regional Tamil terms for genderqueer people[21] and wrote Maraikkappatta Pakkangal the first book[22] on Gender-Variants in Tamil.[23][24][25] On April 2015, Shankar was invited by Tiruchi Siva to witness the passing of historical Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 at Rajya Sabha upper house of the Parliament of India. For contributions as a gender minority to Hinduism, Shankar was presented "Young Hindu Award" by writer Aravindan Neelakandan, Joe D Cruz at 6th Hindu Spiritual Services Fair.[26]

 
Gopi Shankar M speaking on Intersex and Medical Violations at Autonomous University of Madrid with Katrina Karkazis of Stanford University School of Medicine & Carlos Duarte from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Portugal)[27]

Shankar petitioned the case of Asian Games medalist Santhi Soundarajan who was stripped off her medal after a gender test to the State and Central Government.[28][29][30][31][32] Shankar launched multiple complaints on behalf of athlete Santhi in National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Human Rights Commission of India also initiated Justice For Santhi Campaign which was instrumental in fetching her a permanent posting as athletic coach in Tamil Nadu Sports Development Authority on December 2016.[33][34]

 
Asia's first genderqueer Pride Parade at Madurai Gopi Shankar M with Anjali Gopalan[7][35]

Shankar was a speaker at WorldPride Madrid Summit 2017. Shankar shared chair with Federico Mayor Zaragoza Director-General of UNESCO, Myrna Cunningham of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Zanele Muholi (Artivist) for the historic MADRID SUMMIT DECLARATION.[36][37]

The State Council of Educational Research and Training under Government of Tamil Nadu has called Shankar to give inputs on Sex, Gender and Sexuality studies for the 2017 New School Curriculum Development Committee of Tamil Nadu to include LGBTQIA+ community in school studies.[38] Shankar was also part of the panel on Theological Reader on Gender & Sexuality for National Council of Churches in India.[39]

Shankar is one of the core committee members of Intersex Asia, it is the Asia's first collective forum for Intersex Individuals and organisations,[40][41]the first state policy briefing on Intersex Human Rights was organised by Shankar on July 2019.[42]

Transgender activismEdit

Shankar through Srishti Madurai helpline rescued several trans women from forced sex work and begging.[43] Shankar also mentors the Transgender India forum India's first 24x7 holistic help and support discussion forum for intersex and transgender people, as well as their families.[44]

Shankar and trans woman S. Swapna[45] staged a protest in Madurai collectorate on 7 October 2013 demanding reservation and to permit alternate genders to appear for examinations conducted by TNPSC, UPSC, SSC and Bank Exams. Later, Swapna successfully moved the Madras High Court in 2013 seeking permission to write the TNPSC Group II exam as a ‘woman’ candidate.[46]

Death threatsEdit

In 2016 Shankar was sexually, verbally harassed and received death threats from a member of one of the political parties during Shankar's campaign, then the Tamil Nadu Police assigned Shankar with three security officers whenever Shankar is out campaigning.[47] Shankar also expressed dismay on homophobia and transphobia in Tamil Muslim community when the youth wing of the Indian National League, a Muslim party, Calling LGBTQIA+ people as "cultural terrorists", the poster calls for the "death sentence under section 377" and warns of terror against the community as homosexuality is "against Tamil culture" was put up by a day after 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting in the United States.[48][49]

Protection for intersex people in IndiaEdit

On 2015 Shankar urged Indian parliament to include intersex people in bill protecting trans rights,[50] Shankar also launched an official complaint to National Human Rights Commission of India to ban the forced sex selective surgeries on intersex infants also to ensure their fundamental constitutional rights in India for which the NHRC issued directions to the Secretary Union Health Ministry Government of India to respond Shankar within 8 weeks.[51][52][53][54][55]

On 22 April 2019 the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) passed a landmark judgment[56] and issued direction to ban Sex-Selective Surgeries on Intersex Infants based on the works of Gopi Shankar,[57] the Court took note of the issue of the rampant practice of compulsory sex reassignment surgeries performed on inter-sex infants and children. The Court also expressed its gratitude to Shankar, noting that Shankar's work has had been a humbling and enlightening experience for the Court[58][59]

Awards and accoladesEdit

Shankar was also awarded the Diversity Leadership Award 2016 by the World HRD Congress [60] and featured in ‘India’s 8 LGBT role models under 30’ by Gaysi for voicing intersex rights in India.[61]Out Leadership recommended Gopi Shankar as one of the expert and openly advocating leaders on LGBT+ issues along with Indian Minister Arun Jaitley and human rights activist Anjali Gopalan[62]India Times listed Shankar as one of the 11 Human Rights Activists Whose Life Mission Is To Provide Others With A Dignified Life[63]

Year Award Honouring body Notes
2016 The Commonwealth Youth Worker Award[67] The Commonwealth, London[68] Awarded for using arts and sports as a social tool to empower young people with positive alternate space [69]
Year Title Honouring body Notes
2017 Highly Commended Runner Queen's Young Leader Award 2017 [67] Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, in partnership with Comic Relief and the Royal Commonwealth Society. Recognised as agent of change for the remarkable work done by Shankar in LGBTQIA community.[13]

MediaEdit

GOPI a Brazilian/English Documentary movie on Shankar's life directed by Viviane D'Avilla was premiered at Festival do Rio 2018 have won multiple awards.[70][71]

Shankar appeared on Living Foodz Dakshin Diaries to curate the gender specific sacred spaces of Indigenous gender-variants of ancient India.[72][73]

Singer Chinmayi produced a three part YouTube video series with Shankar to support Intersex Human Rights in Tamil Nadu

BibliographyEdit

AuthorEdit

  • Maraikappatta Pakkangal (Hidden Pages) Unedited Version, Illustrator Julian Wrangler, Germany, Srishti Madurai., 2014, ISBN 9781500380939.[74]
  • Maraikkappatta Pakkangal: Paal - Paalinam - Paaliyal Orunginaivu- Gopi Shankar (Edited Version), 296 Pages, ISBN 9789386737328, Publisher: Kizhakku Pathippagam, 2017.[21]

ContributorEdit

  • Definitions- Understanding Gender, Sex, and Sexuality. A Theological Reader on Human Sexuality and Gender Diversities: Envisioning Inclusivity - ISBN 9788184656220. Publisher: ISPCK and National Council of Churches in India (NCCI).

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit