Did Air India Break Laws By Refusing To Hire Transgender  Applicant As an Air Hostess?
Did Air India Break Laws By Refusing To Hire Transgender  Applicant As an Air Hostess?

Air India’s refusal to hire a transgender has raised questions on whether it is following the law of the land.

Shanavi Ponnusamy, was born as a male but at the age of 25 underwent a sex-change operation to adopt the female gender.

She was hired by Air India as part of its ground staff at the Chennai Airport, working in the customer service department. Shanavi also completed a 13-month course for flight cabin crew training.

  • In July 2017, Shanavi applied for the role of a female air hostess in response to an advertisement by Air India.
  • She was called for an interview in August where she fared well, but wasn’t shortlisted.
  • Shanavi attempted the test four more times but has failed to quality yet.
  • She has been informed by Air India that her gender was the reason for her failure to qualify since the female air hostess position is reserved for women.

Shanavi has protested the blatant discrimination meted out by Air India by approaching the Apex Court.

Where Does The Law Stand

The Supreme Court of India recognized the transgender community as a third  gender in 2014.

In their ruling, Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri,  said that the recognition of transgenders was a human rights issue and not just a social or medical one. Pointing out transgenders were also citizens of India, the Bench said that the spirit of the Constitution was to offer equal opportunity to all citizens  to grow, regardless of their religion, caste or gender.

The order made it mandatory for all forms of identity documents, such as a birth certificate, passport, or driving licence to recognise the third gender separately.

Air India Clearly Violating The Law

The 2014 Supreme Court ruling clears puts Air India in the wrong. Reena Rai, founder TransQueen India noted that many people and companies do not want to associate with transgender due to negative perceptions. Raising a pertinent question, she has asked how gender had anything to do with a person’s calibre or dedication to a job.

She added that while some companies like Air India were denying opportunities to transgenders many others were more welcoming.

According to Sunieta Ojha, a partner at TRS Law Offices, Shanavi was well within her rights to challenge the decision of Air India.  She also highlighted that as the national carrier it was expected that Air India would adopt progressive thinking but in this case they had taken a regressive step.

A report in Outlook magazine has stated that Air India has responded to Shanavi’s petition clarifying that  she would be given an opportunity in the future as a separate category has been created now for her.



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