The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill on protection of rights of transgenders after a motion to refer it to a select committee of the Upper House was defeated which has attracted criticism from the transgenders for the lack of representation from the community in the formulation of this bill.
The Lok Sabha had passed the bill on August 5. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, seeks to provide a mechanism for social, economic and educational empowerment of transgenders and was moved for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot on November 20. The bill was opposed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor as well.
These are totally just arguments against the BJP Govt’s version of Transgender Rights. I stand with those who oppose the bill in its present form. https://t.co/pQo42CLyvh
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) November 23, 2019
Replying to a discussion for further consideration of the bill, Gehlot said efforts will be made to incorporate the suggestions presented by members while framing the rules. He said a clause related to medical examination by a panel for a district magistrate (DM) or collector to certify a person as a transgender which was earlier part of the bill, has been done away with, after reservations were expressed by members in this regard.
However, in case of a child, his or her parents can file application for issuance of an identification certificate. Elaborating on the provisions of the bill, the minister said it is aimed at eliminating discrimination against transgenders and the government will form a national council for its implementation after the legislation is brought into effect.
Gehlot said a transgender person will be able to avail the benefits of schemes offered by states as well as the Centre. He informed that the recommendations and suggestions of the standing committee of the Lok Sabha have also been incorporated in the bill.
The motion to refer the bill to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha was moved by Tiruchi Siva of the DMK. However, it was defeated after voting took place.
Gehlot appealed to the members to pass the bill saying it was drafted by late BJP leader Arun Jaitley when he was the Union Law Minister and argued that there was no need to send it to a select committee as it has already undergone the scrutiny of the standing committee of Lok Sabha.
He said the Supreme Court’s direction in April 2014 regarding framing transgenders has also been kept in mind. The Supreme Court had recognised the transgender community as a third gender along with male and female in April 2014.
Earlier, 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.
“We can wait for another six weeks till the next session for such a crucial bill’s scrutiny for slow and steady legislation” to provide full justice to the community. The bill in the present form has several lacunae, Siva said. “The trans community has called this Bill regressive and hard-hearted. They have asked for a comprehensive Bill. A Bill should be wholesome and comprehensive. Why don’t you give six weeks at least, send it to Select Committee and then you hear them out. A slow and steady regulation will not do any harm,” he said. He also sought reservation for the trans community in India.
The transgender community has been treated as “untouchables” and have been subjected to “ridicule” and “discrimination” which is the moral failure of the society, he said. Citing how the private members’ bill brought by him in the Rajya Sabha in 2014 was passed by the House but the BJP scuttled it in the Lok Sabha, Siva said such crucial bill this time was passed by the Lok Sabha without any discussion on August 5 as the House was busy discussing abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
V Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP) said the transgenders should be allowed self-certification and added that the bill be sent to the Select Committee. Derek O’ Brien (Trinamool) also said that select committee should scrutiny it and added that the matter is not “politics.”
He pointed out that it was an irony that the punishment for a person raping a transgender was barely six months to 2 years whereas the same in case of women was 10 years or life imprisonment and in case of girl up to 12 years, the minimum punishment was 20 years which could go up to death penalty.
K Keshava Rao (TRS) said there is a need to relook the legislation and added that the members should be given the right to self determination of the gender as confidentiality is lost in the present process.
He also expressed ire over the “miniscule budget” allotted by the Centre for transgenders. Rupa Ganguly (BJP) said that the passage of the Bill will lead to a dignified life to the community members. A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) also supported the bill.
However, most of the trans people have called this Bill unfair, since it forces them to live with their biological families where they are met with most rejection. Trans people cannot choose to stay with their chosen families or communities, partners or friends. The lack of medical facilities provided to transgenders is also one of the concerns of the community as they demand free gender affirming surgeries, full insurance coverage, and the option to choose the ward based on gender.
It is also being called out for the bill is formulated by cis gender people who do not understand the stigma associated with being a transgender. The community is demanding a National and State Trans Rights Commission which consists of majority of transgender people across different identities.