A Supreme Court judgment in 2014 laid out, for the first time, a bill of rights for the country’s much-exploited transgender community. Four years on, despite misgivings of the community, the Lok Sabha has rushed through a bill that imperils many of the gains of the NALSA judgment.
What should be the vision behind the law?
As envisioned by the trans/queer movement, gender is not a one-time fixed membership, but a flowing, subjective and personal experience.
Pitfalls in the bill –
- An individual’s freedom to define herself as male or female or neither is entirely hers — with no quarter given to social or parental vetoes. This freedom is enshrined at the heart of the NALSA judgment — and completely missing from the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016.
- Instead, the bill envisions a district screening committee which will be invested the power to certify people as trans or not.
- A person who wishes to transition from one gender identity to another will be certified as male/female only after a gender reassignment surgery — in effect, turning an issue of personal identity into a medical procedure, and making vast swathes of marginalised persons dependent on the whims of an often hostile bureaucracy.
- In fact, the NALSA judgment had specifically laid out that “any insistence on surgery for declaring one’s gender is immoral and illegal”.
- Another provision says that they should either live with their natal “family” — defined as blood or adoptive relations — or sent to rehabilitation centres, without factoring in the extent to which discrimination begins at home.
- It also ignores the fact that Hijra communities have for long sheltered young trans-people from the violence and coercion of family.
- The bill is also silent on the issue of reserving jobs or educational opportunities for trans-people, or ways to punish the prevalent social and economic discrimination that impoverishes them.
Learning from the model bill –
A private member’s bill, moved by DMK’s Thiruchi Siva, in 2015 was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2015. Its progressive provisions on reservation, education and employment, its understanding of gender self-determination, are a measure of what the new amended bill could have become.
Way forward –
It is hoped that when the bill moves to the Rajya Sabha, these fundamental errors are removed to allow it to become a piece of legislation that is an ally for the transgender community, rather than one more element in their exploitation.
Source – The Indian Express
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