Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale on Monday said transgender people should wear pants and shirts instead of saris as “they are not men and they are not women”, though he did clarify that “they are human”.

The minister was at a national workshop for “sensitising transgender people and stakeholders” when he said, “My feeling is this – everybody should not wear a sari,” according to The Times of India. However, when faced with almost instant censure, Athawale insisted that his words were merely a suggestion and not a diktat of any kind.

Athawale’s comments come at a time when he has been promising that Parliament will pass the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, which seeks to give transpeople equal civil rights.