Remember when Article 370 was revoked in the Rajya Sabha? Of course, you do. What you may not know is that several important bills were passed down to the Lok Sabha as the media attention remained upon the Kashmir situation. This included the rather regressive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights Bill), 2019. The bill has been fiercely opposed by the queer community.
Even amongst opposition by Congress, DMK, and TMC, the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. It shall now be considered in the Winter Parliamentary Session that commences today.
Controversy Surrounding the Transgender Persons Bill
The Bill does not particularly improve, well, anything much for the trans community. On the other hand, according to the new identification laws, a change in ID will be issued by the District Magistrate. This may require a physical examination. No provisions for rejected requests are mentioned.
"The pivotal point is you have to go to a committee or a doctor to get registered as a trans person," said Harish Iyer, a human rights activist. "A trans person could be put through so many hardships, the kind of questions that would be asked--related to genital organs--which would not be asked of you and me.”
This goes directly against the groundbreaking NALSA Judgement (2014), incidentally passed under Congress. The NALSA Judgement stated that self-identification of gender is a fundamental right. It hence made legal processes much easier for gender non-conforming individuals.
A Harder Life
Another point of concern in the Transgender Persons Bill is the rule against Forced Labour, a category that can be extended to include beggary. This is often the sole source of income for much of the trans community without family support. There are no provisions for providing the community with educational resources or jobs. It is already much harder for trans individuals to be hired due to, you guessed it, transphobia. Hence the community ends up in a rather precarious position.
Lastly, minors with transphobic families are subjected to a court order to determine whether they stay with their family or go to a "rehabilitation centre." Without the ability to join their own community, there is no telling whether either option can actually benefit the person.
All in all, the Transgender Persons Bill hardly introduces any helpful changes to the current law, while regressing upon some of the rights the trans community did possess. How then, can it be called Protection of Rights?
Current Legal Situation
The Transgender Persons Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha without much debate or amendment. This is not surprising, as most attention at the time was directed towards the sudden repeal of Article 370. Although many opposing parties raised protests, the BJP majority voted in favour of the bill.
“One (member of parliament) asked me if I had a penis,” said Banu, a transwoman. “As for the BJP MPs, they only kept talking about us as ardhanarishwara (an androgynous mythlogical figure, and an offensively inaccurate term for trans individuals).”
To become official law, the Transgender Persons Bill needs to be passed in the Rajya Sabha. It shall be raised for consideration this session, along with several other important bills.
One can only hope that the bill is not passed in its current form, either rejected or amended enough to be beneficial to the community.