The Trans Bill 2019 Is Evidence That India’s Govt Knows Nothing About Trans Rights

Dear Government,

The Trans Bill (Protection Of Rights) 2019 is actually a Bill for the violation of trans rights. Adding the term “protection of rights” doesn’t make it a bill to protect the rights of the trans community. The average Indian thinks of the hijra community, imagining them begging on streets whenever they hear the word trans. People still don’t understand the difference between intersex, transgender and transexual.

With a bill like this one. you are just fuelling the confusion further. When it comes to queer, gender non-binary, agender and gender fluid individuals, you all frown with confusion as if you have seen an alien.

I have been the part of protests against this bill since my graduation days. It’s been 2-3 years and every year, we have the same draconian bill coming up which has to be rejected.

You make some amendments, ignore major issues and then come up with the same thing with every year. It is hard to understand why this bill gets introduced in the first place as it seems you people know nothing about trans rights.

The previous bill which was introduced had similar problems, you just edited out a few points and came with a customised plan for putting trans and queer rights in place 10 years back. And the way this bill is passed, in such a hurry! To do so without considering proper discussions and ignoring protests by the trans and queer community reeks of desperation to pass it this year.

People often ask me: what is the problem with this bill? Here are a few points to understand.

Different Gender Identities Are Not Acknowledged

There are various gender identities apart from transgender within the spectrum which are often ignored. The categorisation according to this bill is oppressive.

Process To Assign One’s Gender

How will a person feel, standing naked in front of random unknown people to prove their gender? Horrible, right? This is soon going to be a reality for the whole community, as mentioned in this bill. I guess the government again forgets the right to dignity for all.

It also forgets the fact that poor people exist who cannot opt for sex reassignment surgery, which at times proves to be fatal. It indirectly makes sex reassignment surgery compulsory as they demand “proof of surgery.”

Punishment For Sexual Violence

It is not a hidden fact that women’s rights have taken a backseat with rapists getting open support and constant moral policing. With this bill, the attack on queer rights begins. The bill postulates that those who engage in sexual violence against trans persons will face punishment from 6 months to 2 years. Why so? Are transpeople not human?

There is already a plethora of sexual violence against the trans community in society, it seems that criminals are getting an open invitation to abuse trans people. And again, other sexual identities do not exist for them, so no punishment!

Residing With Their Birth Family

Be it queer people or women or anyone for that matter, whenever it comes to abusive birth families, we are made to “adjust.” In other words, “shut up.”

This bill is doing that legally to trans people. If their families are abusive, they cannot leave them. People from the LGBTQIA+ community are more likely to face abuse from their families, often leading to forced marriages, rape, honour killings, conversion therapy, etc. This is a systematic way to support oppression.

People will be legally bound to stay with birth families hence, they will not be able to escape and find jobs to live in another city as there are already no legal procedures to complain against birth families.

It seems as if nobody taught this government anything about queer rights despite having few supporters from the community. Let me help you! Here’s what the bill should have done instead:

  1. The government should have sent the bill back to the selection committee.
  2. Discussed with the trans and queer community for suggestions.
  3. Added proper punishment against all forms of abuse carried out against the trans community.
  4. Included other orientations.
  5. Give the right to employment and education to community members for their empowerment.
  6. Provide medical benefits to community members as they are often denied and discriminated against when they access medical help.
  7. Ensured access to civil rights like accommodation, housing, etc.
  8. Set-up a commission to articulate issues in a better manner.

Making random bills in the name of empowerment and actually making a difference in the lives of a community that mainly comprises working-class individuals are two different things.

If as a cis-gender woman, I do not need any certification for my gender, then none of my trans sisters, brother, queer comrades needs it either.

Take the bill back. It only profits private clinics that earn a fortune by conversion therapy, it only helps the moral police to harass and bully the queer community, it also profits high-priced sex reassignment surgeons.

Trans people don’t owe you an explanation of their gender, evidence of their gender or their basic humanity. Trans people are as human as everyone else. Had it been any other government, I would have done the same, resisted the oppression.

Transmen are men, transwomen are women and trans rights are human rights.

Featured image source: Grace Banu/Facebook.
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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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