Stop The Transgender Persons Bill 2018
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The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 ,passed by the Lok Sabha recently, has caused great noise and clamour in the country. People have come out and protested on the streets, campaigned with parliamentarians and spoken ferociously against the Bill. But isn't it sort of confusing: transgender and intersex activists, the very people who proposed such a bill for their protection are rooting against it and asking for it be sent to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha for adequate legislative scrutiny. Why is there such outcry over it? There are a couple of simple reasons:
1. It establishes a District Screening Committee for the purpose of recognition of transgender persons. This is in direct contradiction with the landmark NALSA judgement, in which the Supreme Court explicitly states that people have the constitutional right to self-identify their gender as male, female or transgender, even without medical intervention. Gender is the innate experience of an individual, unique to every person. It can’t be approved by an extraneous agency through physical or mental tests.Why should a person’s gender identity change with a surgery? The very idea of social equality is vitiated by want of a certificate to prove that your gender identity doesn’t conform to the binary of ‘male’ and ‘female’. To understand why this is unjust, consider a situation where each one of us has to get a certificate from a magistrate before we can be recognised as a “man” or a “woman”.
2. It does not provide for any reservations. Reservations for transgender and intersex persons in educational institutions and in public employment are seen to be absolutely imperative for their social inclusion and equality. Reservations were not only mandated in the NALSA judgement but were also provided for in The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill 2014. Surprisingly the 2018 Bill does not provide for any reservation. It provides in Sections 10 and 14 that there would be no discrimination in education and employment, but these rights and anodyne phrases like “rehabilitation” are meaningless if transgender persons are not able to get access in the first place.
3. The Bill in Section 19 criminalizes anyone who compels or entices a transgender to beg. A large number of people from the trans and intersex community are engaged in begging and sex work due to discrimination and not having any other opportunities. While their dependence on this sector of work will have to be weaned off systematically and gradually, forcing them into quitting it cold turkey is not much of a solution. When the criminalizing of begging itself has been held to be unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court, there is no place for this offence in the 2018 Bill. It is known that most transgenders are harassed or booked under begging prohibition laws, even when they are not begging and are merely present at public places. The clause is, thus, likely to be used against trans persons, in the garb of protecting them and jeopardises the traditional livelihood of Hijras and Kinnars.
These reasons are just dots on a whole wide spectrum of why this bill shouldn’t be made into a law. It also does not have a whole gamut of positive rights such as the rights of trans and intersex persons to inheritance of property, rights within the family such as adoption and to be free from domestic violence,and rights of political participation such as the right to vote and hold public office. It also does not make sexual violence against transgender and intersex persons a criminal offence. The current law on rape is gender specific and transgender persons have no recourse under criminal law for sexual assault.
Instead of TTPB 2018, the TTPB 2014 provides a much more felicitous solution in addressing the problems of the day. The Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2015. The Bill which had been drawn up in consultation with the community, was reflective of the NALSA verdict and incorporated several progressive recommendations, but is hanging dry in the Lok Sabha. Another recourse is for the opposition parties to come together in the Rajya Sabha and vote for the bill to be sent to a Select Committee, and amend it in a major way.
This Bill is going to have disastrous effects on our society, and the the Trans community in India, which is already in a dilapidated state is going to take a turn for the worst, to say the least. If this bill is passed in its current form, we will lose the battle, which will make it even harder to win the war being waged against discrimination of the Trans community.
If you want to live in a society that practices what it preaches and be a generation that not just pays lip service to the constitutional principles of equality and freedom bequeathed upon us by the great forefathers of our nation, please sign it and share this petition as much as possible.
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