Bengaluru: Among this year's recipients of the Karnataka government's Rajyotsava Award is a young transgender, Akkai Padmashali.
Padmashali, the spokesperson for the transgender community, has fought against discrimination against sexual minorities and is doing all that she can to make a difference to the way transgenders are perceived and treated by society.
It isn't always easy to be a member of the LGBT or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community in India and 30 year old Akkai Padmashali has experienced discrimination first hand.
At 17, Padmashali earned her living by begging and with sex work. Two years later, at 19, she decided this was no way to live and joined the NGO Sangma to help the transgender community. Articulate and outspoken, Padmashali was awarded the Karnataka government's Rajyotsava award for social service.
"We all know from ancient age period the sexual minorities have been rejected from all the sections of society - but today the Karnataka government, the second largest civil award has been recognized and given to me. I think some way it is a warm welcoming. It's a strong movement ... struggle ...we are struggling for identity ..." Padmashali told NDTV.
Many groups and individuals have been disappointed by the current legal position in India with homosexuality being a crime. The state government's recognition to a member of the LGBT community is extra significant in this context.
The state's Kannada and Culture minister, Umashree, told NDTV, "This is the first year I think in India we have given the award for transgenders who are fighting for to come in the mainstream and lead a good life."
Padmashali now runs her own organisation, Ondede, and was among the first transgenders to be issued a drivers licence. This new recognition will only make this feisty pioneer more determined to make the lives of transgenders that much easier.