The Transgender Person’s Bill 2018, passed by the Lok Sabha, has several grave errors and fails to protect the rights of trans persons in its current form. How is it that the Supreme Court’s letter is so grossly misinterpreted? Who are these people who sat down to draft a Bill for a community which has ignored and wronged for decades? Were Human Rights specialists, informed empathisers, and accurately qualified persons involved in making of the Bill that should progressively be serviceable and advantageous for a community that is in dire need of equal rights to begin with? The currently passed Bill is rejected by the LGBTQI community and supporters because it does nothing to stop people from who discriminate and perpetrate violence on trans people. The stigma that is already attached to the community only reflects in the Bill.
The Bill states the following points that are regressive and rather harmful:
1. Transgender people will need ‘certification’ from a District Screening Committee to be acknowledged as “transgender”. Also those wishing to identify as either a “man” or a “woman” will be required to undergo gender reassignment surgery. This requirement brings the person’s identity in question until “approved” by an external gatekeeper. This is an outright violation of the NALSA judgment directive, which read: “that any procedure for identification of transgender persons’ which goes beyond self-identification, and is likely to involve an element of medical, biological or mental assessment, would violate transgender persons’ rights under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution.” The Supreme Court’s NALSA judgement of 2014 states that the only thing required to prove a person’s identity is their word for it. The Screening committee’s presence is problematic because it will lead to harassment and violation by people empowered to screen and scrutinise trans people’s lives.
2: The law states that if a trans person’s parents or immediate family are unable to care for them, then they should be sent to a rehabilitation centre. The age qualification for tho\is is not specified. A society in which cisgender people can live where and as they please, the Bill is stripping away rights instead of instilling them. Trans people are often violated in their own homes and prefer to live in communities where they are accepted; such as Hijra samaj communes for Aravanis, Jogtas, and other such indigenous trans communities.
3: The the Bill seeks to criminalise begging by trans people. There is no Pan-Indian law that criminalises begging. Now for a community that is sustaining itself on traditions like badhai, this is especially cruel. Society discriminates against trans people, whose chances of getting employment are slim. This too displays the ignorance of the Bill.
It is evidently visible that violence (physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional) has not been addressed in the Bill. People who have criticised the Bill have said that penalties for violence upon transgender people should be equivalent to existing penalties provisions.
Transgender people’s access to healthcare is severely limited, and the Bill has not addressed this gap. Whereas atrocities such as forced gender-conformity and surgeries, pseudo-psychotherapies, and forced marriages should be defined and penalised.
The activists have expressed that the government has paid no heed to their feedback. However, it has been pointed out that the only amendment, after feedback, is the slightly improved definition of the word “transgender”. The bill is widely criticised because it makes no provisions for opportunities of choice and makes no horizontal provisions for education and employment while criminalising a traditional means of livelihood begging. The Bill must acknowledge gender identity as an individual’s deep and personal experience.
The Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018, has been condemned as well. It puts trafficking in the same bracket as voluntary sex work and does not distinguish the forced administration of hormones and voluntary taking of hormones.
This article is an attempt to simplify and explain what is going on with the Transgender Bill, and why, if passed in its current form, will adversely impact the severely marginalised communities. In my opinion, we are not as informed as we should be, and it is the need of the hour that we be informed and raise our voices in order to protect the rights and dignity of our fellow citizens. It is in fact our duty to bring up those who have been put down for decades.