Widow lived as a man for 39 years to avoid sex pests

Wednesday 25th May 2022 06:53 EDT

A woman who was widowed at an young age lived as a man for 39 years to bring up her young daughter in peace and to avoid sexual harassment. The woman, known only as S Petchiammal, from a village in Tamil Nadu, was left to look after Shanmugasundari alone when her husband, Siva, died of a heart attack a fortnight after their wedding. She took whatever jobs she could find - on construction sites, in roadside food stalls and in hotels. When that led to constant sexual harassment she moved to a town where no one knew her, cut her long hair and adopted a new identity as a widower named Muthu Kumar.

She told reporters that it was initially difficult to keep up the pretence. “I had to remember to use the men’s toilet and sit on the men’s side of a bus,” she said. Her daughter is now married and Petchiammal, 59, is pondering a return to living as a woman to receive pension and social welfare benefits. “She has devoted her life to me,” her daughter said. “I hope she gets the benefits.”

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