On the shubh divas that should be the Constitution Day, queer people across India weren't celebrating. Despite unending protests, demonstrations, and opposition, the BJP-dominated Rajya Sabha passed the regressive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill.
The very name is a misnomer; the community has disowned and condemned the bill due to the several oppressive aspects, but of course, minorities' voices remain unheard against systematic oppression. This comes two days after massive peaceful protests in the form of Bangalore and Delhi Pride. Monday has since been declared #GenderJusticeMurderDay.
How, with such vehement opposition from not just the LGBT community, but every party other than the BJP, did such a controversial and flawed bill pass with little consideration? To understand, we must go into the details of how a democracy should function and what actually happens.
Democratic Elections and The Parliament
In order to represent the interests of all citizens in a democracy, MLAs are elected state-wise and MPs for the Lok Sabha, represented in regional constituencies. Technically, each candidate should be selected on the basis of their policies and work.
However, when is the last time voters researched the actual candidates instead of making a judgement by a lotus, hand, broomstick etc. icon? Through propaganda, intense (and expensive) electoral marketing, and false promises, its parties and charisma that really guide votes. This is how parties win with landslide-like results.
The central government is formed when a party wins a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha members are elected by MLAs. Hence, if one particular party has taken to the media by storm, they form not only the central government but occupy a majority of Parliamentary seats.
Currently, BJP holds 81 out of 245 Rajya Sabha seats and 303 out of 545 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Drafting and Passing The Trans Bill
Nation-wide bills are drafted by the central government, and must then be passed by the Houses of Parliament and approved by the President. Now it doesn't take much to figure that a party in power probably dominates the central government, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha.
In the case of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019, no transgender representatives or committee was consulted during drafting nor passing. In simpler words, the entire bill for a minority was created by those in the majority. A Hindu-nationalist, Populist, borderline-authoritarian majority.
Despite objections and requests for amendment, the Bill passed both houses without much deliberation and no changes under the guise of "Protecting Transgender Persons." Reading through it screams of ignorance and a lack of consideration.
The bill clubs intersex and transgender, gender non-conforming people. The right of self-identification is done away with, and now transgender people require certification from a District Magistrate to identify as "transgender," and surgery for documents of the opposite gender. Trans minors are forced to stay with a potentially abusive family or go to a rehabilitation centre; which is decided by a court order.
Sexual abuse against a transgender individual carries a sentence of only 6 months to 2 years. This is several times shorter than the sentence for harassment of cis-women. Plus, there are no actual provisions that would help the community or protect its rights.
If this bill is approved by the President, it shall become the law, reversing the revolutionary NALSA judgement of 2014 and cutting back on rights the community does have at the moment.
What can we do? Not much, unfortunately, except be loud enough to be heard. Stage demonstrations, peaceful protests, and participate in awareness events. Create petitions and write to MLAs and MPs. While it seems unlikely that the authorities supporting the bill will listen when they haven't for so long, it has worked in some cases before.
As a democracy, We The People should all have equal rights and the ability to lead a normal life. However, far too minorities have been squashed under the shoes of those in power: it's time to push back.