On December 15, Monday the Lok Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, in an attempt to define transgenders and prohibit discrimination against them. However, the bill which was introduced two years ago has received a lot of criticism for being regressive and discriminatory towards the Trans-community. Since the time the bill has been passed, hundreds of people have staged protests in different parts of the country to oppose the bill.
The protesters are demanding that the bill should not be passed in the Rajya Sabha (Upper house) instead a private member bill that was introduced by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Tiruchi Siva in 2015 should be passed in the Lok Sabha. Amidst all the debate, the transgender bill is important not just for the people who belong to the community, but also for others. The Logical Indian explains the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill and why the transgender activists are opposing the bill.
According to The Wire, the bill was passed with 27 amendments that were recommended by the standing committee after it was introduced in 2016. However, since the time this bill was introduced, which claims to protect transgender persons’ rights, the trans community has vocally criticised the bill. The community claim that the bill has been drafted hastily, with no real understanding of gender identity and expression.
“The bill is regressive and anti-transgender”
Soon after the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, the Transgender groups and activists held protests against the bill calling it “violative”.
The protesters said that the new bill is against the 2014 NALSA judgment (National Legal Services Authority). Even though the NALSA judgement had its own flaws, but it had made some progressive arguments. The judgement had affirmed the self-determination of gender identity. This is quite opposite to what the new bill has to say about the transgender identities. According to the new bill, transgender identity can only hold its validity if the medical establishment certifies it.
So, as per the Bill, if a transperson wants to avail an identity certificate, the one has to go through a tedious process. The multi-step process involves; first, an application being moved in the office of the District Magistrate. Then the application would be sent to the screening committee, following which the screening committee would review the application (and in all likelihood the applicant) and then would lay down its recommendation back to the District Magistrate. After which the District Magistrate would then issue an identity certificate. So, in simpler words, this process is more tedious than getting an Aadhar card, Licence or even getting a disability certificate and let’s not forget the bureaucratic situation in the country, whose steady functioning is an open secret.
The voice of the people against the bill
While talking to The News Minute, one of the protesters, Shyam Balasubramanian, who was protesting in Chennai on Friday, December 21, said that the bill goes completely against the 2014 NALSA judgement that gave people the right to self-identify their gender.
The new government bill, also states that those people belonging to the trans community and who wish to identify as either a man or a woman will need to go through gender affirmation surgery, also known as sex reassignment surgery, or SRS. This upends the Supreme Court earlier judgment which states that the trans-community do not need anyone’s acknowledgement as a person’s gender identity is their word.
While talking about this session, protestor Shyam said, “No surgery should be mandatory for people to officially identify as a man, woman or a transgender. This bill forces such a condition on us. We will have to strip in front of a screening committee if we want an ID card which mentions our felt gender.”
Some activist while criticising the move argue that this would make transgender identity subject to more doubts. It would also lead to discrimination and more harassment by people who would be screening and scrutinising the trans people.
The bill also criminalises begging and “whoever compels or entices a transgender person to indulge in the act of begging”. India does not have any law that criminalises begging in the entire country. In August this year, the Delhi High court while striking down several provisions of the Bombay’s Prevention of Begging Act as unconstitutional. The court said that “criminalising begging” violates the most fundamental rights of vulnerable people in our society.
As Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar said that criminalising begging would add injury and insult for the people who are already marginalised. This provision in the bill would do more harm than good for the transgender community as many in the community (Hijras and Kinnars) have to depend on it for their living. At this point, it is also important to remember that transgender people do not have access to employment in the way that other Indians do.
Suchitra dey a trans woman while talking to The Logical Indian said that this is the most dangerous provision in the bill. “Firstly, we do not have access to education. For generations, we were kept deprived of our basic rights and the government did nothing to empower us and now it is suddenly criminalising begging; which has been the only source of income for many transgender people.”
No understanding of the trans community
Termed as “irrational and uncalled bill” by many transgenders, the bill further states that when a parent or immediate family member is “unable to take care of a transgender (sic)”, the transgender person should be sent to a rehabilitation centre.
“This is absurd, a lot of trans people leave their house because they have to go face violence and humiliation at home. In most cases, the family do not support transgender people, which is why these people leave their home and start living with the trans community. But now the government is telling people that they have to face all the abuse as there is no other option for them. Basically, the bill has no understanding of trans people, it is just regressive,” Suchitra said.
While talking about the sending transpeople to rehabilitation centres, she said, “Most people do not understand transgender identity, and that is why they (transgender) are subjected to abuse and violence in most places. After this bill, the transpeople will face the same abuse in rehabilitates centres. The provision would just want to control their movement.”
The bill which is claiming to uplift the trans community is a watershed moment for the transgenders. After the recent Supreme Court’s historical judgement, the passing of this bill is an attempt to shatter the hard-won victory of transgenders.
“In the bill, there is no mention of educating transgender. There is no provision which talks about transgenders getting employment rather it wants to restrict them of doing things, how is this bill going to empower the community,” lamented Suchitra.
Amidst all the criticism for the bill, there is one thing for which the bill is getting the praises. The bill has a slightly improved definition of the word ‘transgender.’ According to the bill, a transgender person is defined as “a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-man or trans-woman (whether or not such person has undergone Sex Reassignment Surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy or such other therapy), person with intersex variations, genderqueer and person having such socio-cultural identities as kinner, hijra, aravani and jogta,” reports The Wire.
To prevent the bill from passing from Rajya Sabha, a petition has been going on many people have signed the petition and so can you.
Also Read: Bengaluru: Sex Reassignment Surgery Still A Struggle For Transgenders In The City