The Trans Act 2019 has now been modified into Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020. The government says that the rules, which are expected to be notified soon have been developed after incorporating several suggestions from the community and concerned stakeholders.
The Trans Act has gone several changes, with one of the modifications allowing Transgender persons to get genital reconstruction surgeries for free at state-run hospitals. Other decisions concerning the provision of accommodation ad schooling of transgender people have also been notified.
However, a group of trans activists have called for the halting of the Trans Act, stating that due to the pandemic adequate discussion and comprehensive feedback with respect to the Act wasn’t possible. Some even argue that the rules being framed violate the provisions of the Act itself.
So what modifications are being suggested by the government, and from where does the controversy regarding its hasty implementation arise from?
What The New Trans Act Rules Say
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 was passed in the parliament on 26 November, with it receiving the President’s assent on 5 December 2019.
Following this, the draft rules for the Trans Act were released, with the government asking for suggestions to be sent by 18th May. According to the government, the modifications in the Act have been made after taking into these suggestions. Here’s what all has been changed in the Trans Act.
Free Gender Reassignment Surgeries
The decision aims to ensure that government hospitals not only offer sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) free of cost but also provide subsidiary services such as proper counselling and hormone replacement therapy to the transgender community.
The legislation required at least one government hospital in every state to supply gender-affirming or sex reassignment surgeries (SRS). SRS refers to a surgical procedure in which a series a transgender person’s genital organs are altered to give them the bodies they feel comfortable in.
In the past, the provision of sex reassignment surgeries hasn’t been an option for the transgender community. This is because, in the absence of legislation, government hospitals simply weren’t offering the procedure. In cases where the procedure was available, it was considered to be extremely expensive for the community.
Other benefits stated in the modified Trans Act include state medical insurance to cover the cost of the procedure and counselling in private hospitals.
Deletion Of The Word “Enumerate”
According to the suggestions received by the ministry, one of the major objections it came across was discontent with the use of the word ‘enumerate’. As a result, the word has been deleted out of the modified Trans Act.
An official speaking to The Print revealed the reason behind this move. " “This has been deleted as many people had pointed out that they were concerned over misuse of the term ‘enumerate’, wherein many fear that a listing may be carried out and might become available to those who ask for it, affecting their identity protection.”
Other Modifications In The Trans Act
The revised rules have listed out several other modifications made to the Trans Act. These include a slew of changes, ranging from developments in healthcare, education, economic support etc.
The Trans Act aims to improve “access to health” for the transgender community. It plans to do this by providing separate wards for transgender persons, assistance on health issues, and separate medical insurance/Aarogyasri cards,
For educational reforms, provisions will be made to provide scholarships to transgender students. To ensure they don’t get ostracized while in school, channels of grievance redressal will also be set up to protect them from ragging and bullying. Arrangements to provide residential housing to transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex children in government schools and universities will also be made.
Several other measures at the disposal of the transgender community include affordable housing, shelters and community centre providing nutritious food and universal access to food security schemes.
The Trans Act also aims to provide economic support to the community. Some of the measures under it include “Explicit inclusion of transgender persons in employment guarantee schemes such as MGNREGA and all social security schemes. Formation into self-help groups for livelihood activities. Provisions of zero-interest and other micro-finance schemes”
So Why Are The Actions Being Met With Controversy?
While all the measures announced should be seen in a positive light and do a world of good for the community, trans activists are unhappy with the timing of the modification.
This is because there were several issues with the Trans Bill when it was first passed. The transgender community wants constructive dialogue on the nitty-gritty of the legislation before it becomes a reality. Several issues came up with the bill, with many from the community feeling their issues weren’t addressed. To know why the transgender community has been protesting against the Trans Act, you can read these pieces by the NPR and Human Rights Watch.
Therefore, the transgender community has long been challenging the Trans Act, as it believes it does them more harm than good. Despite the modifications, many people have been asking for more time to allow constructive debate to take place on the intricacies of the act.
While passing the Trans Act is important and will ensure the transgender community finally gets it does, it must be done with the complete consent and agreement of those for whom the Act has been created.