One would automatically assume that the Transgender Protection Bill is aimed to protect transgender individuals. But not in this case. And people across the country have been protesting it for a week before the bill was tabled.
And yet the bill passed.
Transgender Protection or Stigmatisation?
The parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) bill on the 26th of November. The bill passed with only voice notes and no amendments. This was first passed in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session of the parliament. Which means it all began on the 5th of August, 2019. Thaawarchand Gehlot, a minister of social justice moved the bill to the upper house.
The bill needed amendments. And even the ministers of the parliament, Rajeev Gowda and Tiruchi Siva made a request for significant amendments without which the bill would cause more harm than help. But no amendments were made to the bill. And the bill was passed.
Why are We Fighting This?
Many people from the LGBT+ community and allies have come together to protest against the bill. All across the country, rallies have been held to create awareness about the issue. And all for good reason.
According to Live Law, these are the nuances of the bill. Let us begin with the definition of transgender. The bill states that “a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities.”
The bill prohibits discrimination against any transgender person.
This includes “denial of service or unfair treatment” in every field. The list is inclusive of education, employment, healthcare, access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public. That is not all, it also ensures that there is no discrimination in their right to movement, right to reside, rent, or otherwise occupy property, opportunity to hold public or private office. And also, access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person is.
Although this seems wholesome and covers a wide range of things, the bill fails at one of the most vital features.
It does not address a transgender individual’s fundamental right to determine his or her gender. The District Magistrate holds that power. The DM grants the certificate of identity to transgender individuals. And the bill is not clear about what procedure to follow if the DM refuses to provide the certificate.
Talk To Us Before You Make Decisions For Us
The Bill was made to protect the transgender people in the country. And yet they were not consulted in the creation of the Bill. And activists took to the streets to show their dissatisfaction with the Bill. The Bill is facing severe criticism. Activists say that the Bill could further discrimination and increase the stigma that the community already faces. The Bill considers gender in a fixed binary. A heternormative idea that the entire LGBT+ community is fighting against. The gender binary goes against the ideas of the trans rights movement and the feminist movement.
Another issue is that the Bill was never open for consultation. So even though the straight community considers the Bill wholesome, it really is not. Writing for The Wire, Dhruva Gandhi and Unnati Ghia speak against the Bill. They say that the society’s bias against trans people is fairly evident in the Bill.
Take for example, sexual abuse. If a transgender person is sexually abused, the abuser serves only two years in prison. But according to the Indian Penal code, a sexual abuser has to serve at least seven years in prison. And the disparity is stark. The Protection Bill seems to be discriminatory in all senses.
The writers also add that,
“It is only fitting that legislation that seeks to grant rights to transgender persons does not rest on questionable assumptions in so far as the conceptualisation of ‘gender’ and ‘equality’ are concerned. Unfortunately, this Bill does precisely that. It is still some distance away from allowing members of the transgender community to fully realise their identities,”
The Transgender Protection Bill was passed without heed to anyone’s protest, despite the marches and protests to call for the government’s attention. The parliament hurriedly passed the Bill. And it provides the DM a sort of Veto Power. Not only is the Protection Bill not protective, but it is also discriminatory towards the Transgender community in India.
There are several levels of conflict with the issue of certificate too. One, why is the District Magistrate considered capable of issuing a certificate? Two, providing a medically trained subordinate will force transgender people to undergo what could be embarassing medical procedures. And three, the certificate only further separates the transgender community.
The Bill also does not provide the freedom for an individual to identify themselves. It does not address the fact that the community’s access to the official spaces is fairly sparse.
The Bill seems to be indicating that the government will “protect” the community according to their own terms. Do you agree?