4 Reasons Why The Transgender Bill 2018 Will Hurt The People It Says It’s ‘Protecting’

By Anonymous:

Last year around this time, I was sitting with my queer and trans friends in gloom. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was released by the government and it completely stripped us of the rights that the NALSA verdict had given us. We were scared and worried. What would happen to us? Why did we have to answer a thousand questions about our gender identity to a Committee to prove who we are? We are already at the receiving end of social and institutional marginalisation. Now, in the name of granting rights to us, we were being further subjected to institutional oppression.

Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times.

Legislation prepared by the State can empower the marginalised, and change their lives. However, the government has passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill which was opposed by us trans and gender non conforming persons, collectives, and organisations since the first draft of the Bill was released. The Bill, in its present form, completely goes against the NALSA verdict in 2014, which accorded trans individuals the right to self-identify as ‘third gender’ or within the binary (as male or female). It also recommended reservations in the fields of education and employment, and demanded socio-economic upliftment by the state. But today’s Bill ignores the spirit of the NALSA verdict, leaving us in shock and anger.

1: Self Determination Of Gender Identity

As an agender trans person, I find myself complete in the dark because I am worried how the Trans Bill will place me. Will it accept me as trans? Will I be subjected to an invasive personal body check to determine my gender identity? As a friend of other trans persons with varying privileges and marginalisations, I fear for them as well. This Bill refuses to recognise the importance of the right to self determination of gender identity, wherein only the person concerned determines their gender and no other organization or person can determine for that person. However, in the present Bill, there is a District Screening Committee headed by the District Collector, which will determine if the person is trans or not. This very thought inspires fear in me. It dehumanises us as we will be physically checked and asked to strip and put our bodies on display for mostly cisgender heterosexual eyes who will inspect us and then tell us what we are. It was not enough that we face harassment in all forms, but this is an institutionalised assault on our being and bodies.

2: Reservation

Second, is the issue of reservations. This Bill does not provide for any reservations in the field of employment and education as directed by the Supreme Court in the NALSA verdict. The main question that arises is how does the government plan to ensure that trans and gender non conforming persons can overcome the systemic socio-economic discrimination that exists in Indian society without being able to access higher education and jobs. The fact that this is not included in the Bill is a clear indication that the Bill is merely a facade that claims to give rights but actually takes them away in the name of giving them.

3: Definition Of Family

Third, a crucial problem is the definition of family in the Bill. It has rejected the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s definition of family which also includes family of choice, partnership, marriage and friendship. It refuses to acknowledge the violence that we face in our biological families and rejects the families of choices and queer relationships that we form with other queer and trans persons wherein we understand each other and are there to support each other in everything. It will not acknowledge the Hijra gharanas and attacks their existence. It attacks the family of choice I have found in my collective. It states that it will put trans children in ‘rehabilitation’ centres without stating how these centres will work and how it will be different from the existing rehabilitation centres which are known to be oppressive in nature.

4: Criminalisation Of Begging And Lighter Penalties

Fourth, the Bill criminalises begging and ‘enticement to any form of forced labour’ without providing any form of alternative employment. It first refuses to provide reservations in education and employment and then, criminalises the primary occupations of trans persons across the country. It is criminalising our existence in practice. The Bill gives lighter penalties in case of violence and discrimination as compared to those penalties in the case of cis – gendered women.

It is outrageous how this government is attacking our rights in spite of the repeated community feedback given to the various editions of the Bill. My friends and I are scared of the coming future. The Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha. It will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha. We are fighting to ensure that this Bill does not get passed and take away our rights. We strongly condemn this Bill.

What can you do? YOU, the reader, can help too. Send an email to the members of the Rajya Sabha. Click here.

Featured Image source: Sampoorna India/Twitter.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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