In response to the Centre’s proposed move to reintroduce its original transgender Bill in the coming session of Parliament, people from the transgender and intersex community have launched a nationwide protest.
The Indian Express had on November 19 reported that the Union government intends to junk the progressive recommendations made by a Parliamentary Committee Report and instead reintroduce its original Transgender Persons Bill as it is. Social Justice Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot had then said, “Our ministry feels that the Bill made by us is good and there is no need to change it.”
A signature campaign launched on November 23 against the proposed move to reintroduce the original Bill has been supported by 73 rights organisations within India and 43 from across the world. Terming the ministry’s Bill as ‘trans-exclusionary and regressive’, the protests, through social media campaigns, letters to the PMO and Ministry of Social Justice, will culminate in a march at Parliament street on December 17.
“The very definition of transgender in the Bill as neither male nor female etc. is scientifically inaccurate and undignified. It is wrongly based on the concept of Ardhanaari in Hindu mythology. Also, by mandating physical screening by district level panels, it does great disservice to our right of self-identification as upheld in the landmark Supreme Court NALSA judgement (2014),” said Gee Imaan Semmalar of Sampoorna, the country’s largest network of trans and intersex persons.
Grace Banu, a Chennai-based technologist and Dalit transgender activist, said the Bill is silent on several aspects outlined in the Supreme Court judgement and House panel report. “These include reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, recognising intersex as different from transgender persons, stress on healthcare, decriminalisation of sex work and begging and provision of livelihoods,” she said.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the only international association dedicated to the scientific study of gender dysphoria and transgender health, in an open letter to the Indian government on November 28 asked for withdrawal of the Bill so as to “replace (it) with one which more closely corresponds to the terms and spirit of the Supreme Court NALSA judgement.”
Karthik Bittu, an Associate professor at Ashoka University, said the Bill is not only silent on the right to marriage, adoption or alternate family structures, but also fails to give commensurate punishment in cases of sexual violence. “The Bill mentions a punishment of only six months to two years for sexual violence against trans people whereas the usual punishment is up to seven years. We demand that the Bill in its present form be withdrawn and a national consultation with members of our community be held before reintroducing it,” he said.