“It is ironical that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was taken up on November 20 which is Transgender remembrance day and passed on Constitution day, I personally consider this is a gender justice murder day,” said Ray, a transwoman student in University of Delhi at a press conference called by the Trans community on Wednesday to speak against the Bill that was passed by Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The trans community has called this bill repressive as it discriminates against them and imposes sex change operation to fit into a binary of male or female which they believe is a violation of the historic National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India (NALSA) judgment of 2014.
In April 2014, the NALSA judgement affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to trans people and gave them the right to self-determine their gender. The most powerful aspect of the NALSA judgment was its freedom to choose “identity”
“Gender identity refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body which may involve a freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or functions by medical, surgical or other means and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms. Gender identity, therefore, refers to an individual’s self-identification as a man, woman, transgender or other identified category,” said the judgement.
The trans community feels betrayed and questions the bill for most of its clauses one of which asks for an application to District Magistrate for legal recognition of one’s transgender identity, and makes ID as male or female dependent on registering as transgender, and then supplying proof of surgery.
No penalty clauses for discrimination. abuse of all forms clubbed together. Discrimination against us is not the same as sexually abusing us. Please tag Rajya Sabha MPs to #StopTransBill2019 urge MPs to refer bill to select committee. Pls amplify, RT this 3/n pic.twitter.com/z5sgd9Um2J
— Ray | ரே | रे (@imray1795) November 22, 2019
The community further said that those suffering from gender dysphoria sometimes do not want to conform to any of the two genders and do not wish to opt for a sex change operation.
In response to the above bill, Vqueeram Aditya Sahai, member of the trans community said, “The trans narrative for a long time has been controlled by the medical-pharmaceutical industry who consider transgender as mere bodies and not persons.”
Sahai also accused the medical community of seeing transgenders as porno tropes whose sole aim is to create a market of selling hormones and promoting sex-change operation.
“Our bodies are fetishised when we go to your house for badhai, our bodies are fetishised when we are in courtrooms, our bodies are fetishised when we go to the police station to file FIR and so on. So for a long time, a trans person can only survive if we fetishise our bodies, and now we have no chance to live as a trans person. Whatever we needed to do for survival has been made more difficult under this bill”, Sahai added.
According to the trans community addressing the press conference today, the bill empowers DMs, Doctors, and police who have the right to assign the gender and takes away their rights. The community also asks how will transgenders afford a sex change operation when they are forced to beg on streets and work as sex workers.
The bill also postulates that sexual violence against trans persons will face punishment from six months to 2 years, in comparison with the 7 years of imprisonment for sexual violence against women. “In this way, the bill directly discriminates and strips us of dignity and equality,” Ray said.
The Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot passed the bill on protection of rights of transgenders after a motion to refer it to a select committee of the Upper House was defeated.
On the anniversary of the constitution, welcome to a law that legitimises unequal citizenship and legal discrimination. #TransBillPassed
— vqueer (@vqueeram) November 26, 2019
The bill does not provide any reservation for the community in education, employment, and healthcare sectors which again is seen as the destitution of the community, Grace Banu, a Dalit transgender activist, and the founder director of TransRightsNow collective said, “They want to take tax from us but they cannot give us our rights. This government is against the minorities.”
On Tuesday, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva stressed that given the sensitivity of the issue and the insult, discrimination and atrocities inflicted on the transgender community, the bill should be sent to the select committee.
V Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP) also said that the transgenders should be allowed self-certification, adding to it the bill be sent to the Select Committee.
Derek O’ Brien (Trinamool) also said that the select committee should scrutiny it and the matter is not “politics”, he added.
In 2015 Tiruchi Siva had introduced a Private Member’s Bill on transgender persons’ rights that was passed in the Rajya Sabha and was sent to Lok Sabha where it was never taken up for discussion. Siva’s bill was considered far more progressive and was supported by the trans community as well.
“Our right to life and dignity under Article 21 has been taken away by this Bill. This is a regression from the bill of Tiruchi Siva. Violation of rights is felt by trans people in their everyday lives. If this Bill becomes law, that violation will now be visible,” added Shume Banerjee, an advocate turned teacher and a trans activist.
The community now hopes that President Ram Nath Kovind does not sign the bill and sends it back for reconsideration and listens to transgenders’ grievances who lie at the heart of this issue.