Photojournalist Jennifer CARLOS is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From the project ‘Daughters of God’. To see Jennifer’s body of work, click on any image.
March 31st, 2022
The International Transgender Day of Visibility
Daughters of God
Six months with transgender communities of South India
Photo coverage from September 2021 to March 2022
Savitha, Sangeena, Sathana, Geetha, Rossi,Marthula, Srija and Pappima are part of the transgender community of Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu: the Thirunangais — “daughters of God” in Tamil. In the south of India, this is how they are referred to, in reference to Bahuchara Mata, the Goddess of fertility and chastity, of whom they are the descendants, according to the Hindu tradition.
The Thirunagais who were wrongly assigned to the masculine gender at birth, called “Hijras” in the north of the country.
As a French photojournalist of Indian origin, I have always been fascinated, since I was a child, by the beauty and courage of the people of this community, who manage to exist in one of the most patriarchal and conservative societies of the world. In September 2021, I decided to go meet them, and immersed myself within their community for six months, to bear witness of these marginalized lives.
In 2014, India recognized transgender as the third gender in Indian law, before decriminalizing homosexuality four years later — a sign of changing times, even more so as several transgender and intersex popular public figures like models or influencers had recently hit foreign press headlines.
But these exceptional career paths are indeed exceptions as they are often the prerogative of society’s most privileged social classes, and far away from the daily existence of the Tirunangais who offer sexual services in the streets of Pondicherry.
Rejected by their own families, mutilated, battered, raped, excluded from the labor market, Savitha, Sangeena, Sathana, Geetha, Rossi,Marthula, Srija and Pappima survive on begging, prostitution and the strong links of solidarity that unite their community. A community that holds a paradoxical position in the south of India: feared and revered, celebrated by the Hindu religion which ascribes to them powers of blessing, healing, and fertility, while still being rejected and denigrated by society.
These women accepted to let me photograph them every day, between rites of passage, prostitution, begging, and hopes for a better life.
All images and text © Jennifer CARLOS
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This was intriguing to read. You learn something new every day. Life must sure be hard for them. Hopefully tolerance spreads further than it does now.