Maneka Gandhi Must Apologise for Mocking Transgender Community in Parliament

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Can anything/anyone be more dehumanizing?

During the course of the discussion in Lok Sabha on the “Anti-Trafficking Bill” passed on 28th July, which unfortunately refused to understand the complex set of differences and dynamics between “adult trafficked persons” (who need to be liberated and rehabilitated with their consent) and “adult sex workers” (whose ‘choice’ of livelihood within their complex circumstances needs to be understood & respected by also allowing them access to a range of skills and livelihood opportunities to choose from), Ms. Maneka Gandhi, the ‘Hon’ble’ Minister for Women and Child Development made an extremely reprehensible, derogatory and insensitive reference and gesture towards lakhs of transgender persons in this country. [See the 18 secs video clip].

So, the ‘saviour-of-all species’ went on to refer to persons of all genders, beyond the male-female binary as ‘the other ones’, rolled her eyes out not knowing what to call us, gave out this horribly embarrassing laugh and then called us ‘TGs’ ! And this was followed by an equally insensitive laughter by quite a few MPs in the House !

Thankfully, NCP MP Supriya Sule, who has for a while been engaging with transwomen in Maharashtra had a modicum of insaniyat to knock sense into the Minister’s head to not refer to us in a denigrating manner as ‘Others’, but as transgender persons. She also questioned the absolute invisiblization of the complex concerns of transgender persons in the Bill and called upon the Govt. to address the same. [See 32 secs video clip]

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Now what is indeed appalling is that a Cabinet Minister has this level of ignorance and arrogance! After so much of uprising by the transgender community in the country, the NALSA Judgement of the Supreme Court, the discussions around the Transgender Bill, the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the protests, the petitions – she has the audacity to even refuse to acknowledge our existence as citizens !

Such an utter disgrace for humanity, this woman! For all her love for pets and pigs and pigeons and ponies, she seems to have forgotten to love people enough !

If only like the SC & ST Atrocities Act, 1989, there could be a Transgender Persons (Prevention of Abuses & Atrocities Act), we could have kickstarted a campaign for this woman to be behind bars and face trial for her atrocious remarks! One still thinks this is a context for such a campaign, impressing upon the need for a law preventing, penalising and punishing abuses and atrocities on transgender persons, which are ubiquitous and multi-fold.

Apparently, the Minister also also made some disparaging references to sex workers and the National Network of Sex Workers infact issued a statement yesterday itself, asking her “Are we not women, Madam Minister?” Do we not have the right to be heard by Ministers, Governments and Members of Parliament? Are we according to you so reprehensible that it is ok to make us the butt of your humour at the cost of dignity? Are we not citizens of India entitled to dignity?.

This time, it was fortunately the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who stepped in to insist that sex workers had a legitimate appointment with the Minister, and that their meeting her was not ‘unparliamentary’. (when another MP objected to a delegation of sex workers even meeting the Minister !!)

After all this mess, the least Maneka could have done was to apologize to the entire transgender community, to all sex workers and to the House. Couldn’t find any proceedings of her doing so. And don’t think she has the humilty and basic human sense to do so either!

Meera Sanghamitra

Meera Sanghamitra

Meera Sanghamitra was trained as a lawyer in Hyderabad and has had an abiding interest in human rights, environmental and social justice issues since college year. She serves on the Governing Board of pro-people organizations like the Humsafar, Support Centre for Women (Lucknow), Bindrai Institute for Research, Study and Action (BIRSA), Ranchi and is also associated with other alliances including campaigns for judicial accountability, right to education, women’s and transgender rights, social justice etc.She is ther recipient of the Gorrepati Narendranath Memorial Fellowship (2018) given by Centre for Equity Studies. She is a member of the Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti (THITS).
Meera Sanghamitra