Lok Sabha Passes Trans Bill That Robs the Community of Their Rights
After the landmark 2014 NALSA ruling from the Supreme Court which affirmed people’s right to self-identify their gender, among other fundamental rights, the Court asked the Government of India to implement the stipulations within six months.
Fast forward to Monday, when the Lok Sabha passed a bill that not only goes against the SC ruling in many ways, but actively disempowers and criminalizes the trans community. The idea that the Transgender Persons Bill was supposed to ensure concrete steps from central and state governments to protect trans people’s rights to housing, education, healthcare, and employment, is a laughable one. Instead the current version of the bill, set to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha within the next week, ignores the many of the recommendations sent in by community organizations all over the country. Many have pointed out that the very people who will be directly affected by the bill have not been consulted in the process of its creation.
NALSA mandated that welfare and employment opportunities should be created through reservations, to help the socio-economically backward trans community, 92% of whom still aren’t able to participate in the formal economy, thanks to centuries of marginalization. But the Trans Bill talks of non-discrimination within educational institutions, without offering even a fee waiver or stipend, let alone reservations for trans folks.
In place of programs that would ensure the welfare and safety of the community, the government is proposing to criminalize organized begging, and carry out rescue and rehabilitation measures that place trans people in the care of their biological family who are often transphobic themselves. So not only is the government denying trans people any sort of guarantee of employment or education, they’re criminalizing a major avenue of income for the community that desperately needs it.
Arguably the most fiercely objected stipulation of the legislature is the government’s plan to establish ‘District Screening Committees’ comprised of doctor, psychiatrist, district welfare officer, transgender person, and a government official who will judge whether a trans person…is a trans person or not.
Clearly this goes against the NALSA judgement supporting the right to self-identify your gender, and denies trans folks very basic human rights. That anyone would have to somehow ‘prove’ their gender is ludicrous. Would any cis person agree to standing before a committee and show that they really do exemplify one gender or the other?
The existence of a committee also allows for potential violence, physical and/or mental, against trans people. The medical community in India has no systematic training on how to treat queer and trans people, and is notorious for discriminating against the community. Even qualified doctors are often unaware or uncertain about how to handle issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ folks. To put a group of people in charge of how trans people are allowed to identify themselves is just incredibly unjust and takes India so many steps backwards in terms of granting every citizen their fundamental rights.
While the bill was passed amid chaos in the parliament, the trans community — who were barely informed of the details of the final draft introduced on Monday — are taking to social media and the streets, to protest the bill that certainly threatens their livelihoods, if not their lives.