Patriarchy is so deeply engraved in our society that it has reached a stage of normalisation. Society has trouble acknowledging the problem of patriarchy because of society, patriarchy was taught as ‘the rule of law’ since its early ages. And when this patriarchy seeps into the decision-making process, we limit and inhibit the progress of all other genders by giving sole importance to the heterosexual male, a demographic that comprises just one of the many myriad components of our society.
Our politics has struggled to accept the concept of homosexuality, much less make laws to protect them for harassment that the society feels entitled to subject them to. The government passed the Transgender Person Protection of Rights Bill 2019. The transgender community as a whole rejected the bill because not only did it fail to come up to the expectations but also because the provisions of the bill were not in alignment to the needs of the community. And the reason behind this will astound you.
The transpersons community was neither adequately represented in the expert’s committee that laid the basic framework of the bill nor was it sufficiently consulted while designing the provisions of the bill. Patriarchy not only spoke on behalf of them but also made laws for them without caring about their effect on the community.
The state of Bihar is no different when it comes to the participation of the community in politics. This article aims to analyse this fact with greater insight.
Monica Das became the first-ever transperson woman to be elected as the presiding officer of an election. She will preside over the state assembly elections of Bihar that are due to begin on 28 October. The transperson community has existed for as long as the heterosexual community, yet such feats are occurring for the first time for the community which is equally talented than the rest. This is the cloud of the silver lining that I am forced to highlight here.
The 32-year-old gold medalist law graduate from Patna University has created history and I hope it will speed up the justice the community has been waiting for too a while now.
A further look at the electoral rolls for the election will point out the disparity that the community faces in Bihar. While there are more than 40,000 transpersons in Bihar, only 2,344 are eligible to cast their votes in the upcoming elections. The political parties very conveniently disregard the needs of the community in their policies because they do not view them as a significant vote bank. By keeping them out of the voting process, an effort is made to keep them out of mainstream politics.
This is the 21st century and this behaviour can no longer be excused. It’s time we came out of our bubble of cognitive dissonance and challenged whatever stereotype we have normalised. I understand that it’s difficult to believe anything that contradicts what has been instituted in us right from childhood through media as well as our personal interactions. But these stereotypes have made the lives of the LGBTQ+ community difficult.
It should not be a matter of fear to discover your sexual identity. It should instead be an occasion of celebration and joy. And it is up to us as a society to convert this place from a hostile setting to a welcoming inclusive place.
The Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which made sex or marriage between persons of the same gender illegal by law was part of our legal framework till as recently as 2018 before the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional. Just as we had begun to celebrate this development, the Solicitor General of India refused to grant a same-sex marriage a legal recognition. He reasoned it by stating that it goes against “our law, legal system, society and values.” Someone’s sexuality is their right and the society gets no say in neglecting it by giving the excuse of their values. If that is the case, it is the values that must change.
We cannot take one hesitant step towards progress and then take two steps back. India is an amalgamation of humanity. We were never a land of a single culture, a single language, or a single religion. And thus we chose to celebrate our diversity. We chose to be an ‘Incredible India’ by respecting all our diverse aspects. Similarly, India was never a land restricted to heterosexuality or the concept of two genders. We celebrated the diversity in our sexuality at a time when the rest of the world considered it blasphemous.
A look at the ancient culture and texts like the Tamil Sangam Literature and even painting depictions on temples will back this. The Kama Sutra also acknowledges attraction and unions between persons of the same gender. We were a progressive land that regressed into restricting normalcy to comprise solely heterosexuality. To look for justice, we need not look far for inspiration. Our ancestry is a glorious saga of how sexuality should be celebrated.
Section 18(D) of this act regards sexual offences against transpersons as a petty offence and less grave compared to a sexual offence against a woman. The punishment ranges from imprisonment for six months to two years. While Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code has provisions for the legal protection of a woman in case of a sexual offence, the punishment for which can extend from seven years to life imprisonment. The constitution lacks sufficient legal provisions to protect male survivors of rape.
Our parliament needs to reflect the true demographic of India, which includes a significant fraction of the transpersons community and this change needs to begin with Bihar. We need more transgender members in the decision making bodies to create laws that truly respect the needs of the community.
Bihar did begin considerable progress in this path. The Kinnar Kalyana Board established by the State government includes (five) transgender members out of the governing body comprising a total of 21 members. Recently, it was made a legal offence punishable up to two years to discriminate against transgenders to rent a house or provide medical facilities to them, making Bihar the first state in India to do so.
The government has also promised to pay a sum of 1.5 lakh to the members of the community who wish to undergo sex-change surgery. Starting with Bihar, let’s demand more legal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, greater political participation of the community in politics, greater registration of the community as eligible voters. Let’s not forget that we live in a democracy and all we need to do to create a change is demand for it.