Lok Sabha Passes Transgender Bill, Trans Activists Rechristen it the Transgender Persons (Violation of Rights) Bill

Lok Sabha yesterday passed The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016. The Bill aims to empower transgender people. However, the passage of the Bill has met with anger and outrage from the transgender community, who say the Bill has failed to take into consideration the suggestions or demands of the trans community.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 has been opposed by the trans community ever since it was introduced in the Parliament by the government in 2016. The Bill was poorly drafted and among other things, defined transgender person as “neither wholly male, nor wholly female”. It also required a medical board to certify that a person was transgender, going against the principle of self-determination as mandated in the NALSA judgement. After stiff opposition, the bill was then sent to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which suggested various changes in the Bill.

On Monday, social justice and empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot told Lok Sabha that the government has accepted 27 amendments suggested by the Standing Committee. However, recommendations to extend reservations to Trans people were not included. However, the Bill was opposed by many Parliamentarians, including Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. Mr Tharoor said the bill was “flawed” and must be withdrawn. BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said, “The Bill has provision of self perceived gender identity and screening process to recognise the identity of the transgender person. But if a transgender is denied a certificate of identity by the screening committee then this Bill doesn’t provide any mechanism for appeal or review of such decision of the committee. He further said that terms like transmen, transwomen, intersex and queer have been used in this Bill but are not defined.

Later in the day, Shashi Tharoor listed down his opposition to the Bill in a Twitter thread. He said the Bill wrongly assumes that all persons with intersex variation are transgender persons. The bill fails to provide legal protection to trans people under various Indian laws, he pointed out. “Many offences under the IPC such as rape, stalking, sexual harassment etc are applicable only if the victim is female.” He said he moved an amendment to also make school & college curricula inclusive in nature. “Our students need to learn about the LGBTQ community & their rights, and teachers must be trained to ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming children are not discriminated against.”

Criticising the passage of the Bill, trans activist Anindya Hajra wrote on her Facebook profile, “Nothing close to the amendments suggested by the Transgender communities, except for the definition of Transgender persons, have been accepted as the Lok Sabha passes the Transgender Bill, 2016 today. The draft of the Bill post these suggestions was not shared publicly and our deepest apprehensions have come true!”

Trans activists have called a press conference today at 3:45 pm in Delhi where they will detail the problems with the Bill. Activist Karthik Bittu, in a Facebook post, called the Bill the Transgender Persons (Violation of Rights) Bill. Listing down the problems, Bittu wrote, “The Government of India Bill which was passed today should be more appropriately retitled the Transgender Persons (Violation of Rights) Bill since it violates more rights than it protects. The version of the Bill passed today upholds criminalization of trans people for organized begging, while denying any opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, etc. via reservation. It upholds lighter consequences for discrimination and assault on trans people compared to cisgender people. It violates the constitutional rights of transgender persons to live where we please, stating that even as adults with the right to free movement and association, we must either stay with our parents or approach a court.”

Sukhdeep Singh