Why Activists Call Transgender Bill Shameful And Violation Of Rights

Transgender bill ignores tradition, say activists.

Image: PTI
Image: PTI

The Transgender Persons (Protection Of Rights) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in a hurry amid commotion surrounding the Rafale deal. That led to nationwide protests by members of the community and activists, who said even basic human rights have been ignored.

What are the real concerns with the bill? BloombergQuint spoke to transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan and senior advocate Jayna Kothari to understand the issues.

No Self-Determination Of Gender

According to the Transgender Persons Bill, “A transgender person shall have a right to self-perceived gender identity.” However, to formalise one's gender, a person is required to get certified from a District Screening Committee.

Why Activists Call Transgender Bill Shameful And Violation Of Rights

Kothari said the provision is in direct conflict with the Supreme Court's NALSA judgment in 2014. That ruling said every person has the right to self determine himself or herself as male, female or transgender.

The bill doesn’t protect the right to self-identification, she said. According to the bill, if a transgender individual undergoes a sex-reassignment surgery then that person must provide the necessary medical documents to the District Screening Committee to have the gender changed.

Most transgender people don’t undergo treatment for various reasons like affordability, accessibility or simply not wanting to change, Kothari said. The bill doesn’t accept one’s decided gender identity, she said.

Now that actually goes against human rights principles of self-recognition of gender identity.
Jayna Kothari, Senior Advocate

Criminalising Begging

The Transgender Persons Bill provides for punishment for “whoever compels or entices a transgender person to indulge in the act of begging or other similar forms of forced or bonded labour.

Activists see this as an attack on tradition. The transgender community in India is very small and traditional, and the bill ignores common customs, Narayan said. It makes no mention of the guru-chela parampara (teacher-pupil tradition) or the badhai system, a common practice where members of the community ask for alms at weddings and on auspicious occasions like the birth of a child, she said.

According to Narayan, the bill will compel members of the transgender community to turn to sex trade to earn a livelihood. Moreover, it makes no mention of reservation and anti-discriminatory provisions, she said.

A community for 70 years is without rights. This bill is shameful.
Laxmi Narayan, Transgender Rights Activist

The provision for punishing begging will also affect the community’s employment opportunities, said Kothari. Since many in the transgender community have no other recourse, the provision could be misused to arrest them, she said.

Quantum Of Punishment

The legislation provides for a prison term of six months to two years along with a fine. Activists said the provision too is discriminatory.

There are already penalties for offences relating to sexual and physical abuse in the Indian Penal Code, penalties for which are much higher. Why do you need a separate law?
Jayna Kothari, Senior Advocate

You can watch the entire discussion here: