Union minister Maneka Gandhi on Monday apologised for referring to the transgender community as “the other ones” during a debate in Lok Sabha last week. She said she was “not aware of the official terminology” for the community. Gandhi is the minister for women and child development.

Gandhi had made the reference on Thursday when the Lok Sabha passed the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018. The bill aims to prevent trafficking, to provide care, protection and rehabilitation to victims and prosecute offenders.

When Shashi Tharoor raised the concern about harassment of sex workers who were in the profession voluntarily, Gandhi said: “The bill‍ focuses‍ on‍ a‍ victim.‍ If‍ a‍ voluntary‍ sex‍ worker‍ is not a victim, has not been trafficked, has no one to blame for his or her or...the other ones...yeah okay, TGs’ problems, then there’s no question of harassing them.”

As she paused to look for a word to refer to the transgender community, the minister was seen rolling her eyes and gesturing in a way that critics described as a snigger. Some other MPs also seemed amused.

Apologising on Twitter four days later, Gandhi wrote: “I sincerely apologise for using the term ‘other ones’ during the debate...I did not ‘snigger’, I was embarrassed at my own lack of knowledge. I was not aware of the official terminology for the transgender community. In future, all official communication will use the term TGs. I would like to assure that the [bill] is gender neutral and provides protection to the aggrieved.”