Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, which was passed by Lok Sabha on August 5th has been passed by Rajya Sabha as well on November 26th. The bill was aimed at the welfare of transgender persons has been at the center of protests across the country with members of the transgender community taking to the streets in Delhi, Bengaluru, and Chennai among other cities.
Members of the transgender community claim that the bill is quite contrary to its main objective- the protection of trans-men and trans-women.
The Bill defines a transperson as someone whose gender does not match the one assigned at birth and prohibits discrimination against them in employment, education, housing, healthcare and other services. It also allows for certification after such a person undergoes surgery to change gender. The application and a certificate from a medical superintendent or chief medical officer of the medical institution where the surgery took place should be given to the District Magistrate for a revised certificate.
Many in the trans communities have raised objections to the gender certificate from the District Magistrate. The bill clearly ignored the Standing Committee recommendation which suggested that this certification process be overseen by a Screening Committee comprising a chief medical officer, district social welfare officer, psychiatrist, government officer and member of the transgender community.
Many from the Transgender community, sexual minorites, progressive citizenry came to the streets to protest and appeal to president Ramanath Kovind to not sign this bill and return it to Rajya sabha because this bill is anti-constitutional in nature and president should order a comprehensive debate on this matter.
Protests were seen in Bengaluru town hall on 27th of November in Bengaluru and Mysore cities of Karnataka. The Karnataka sexual minorities forum Bengaluru was joined by Dalit Sangharsha Samiti and other progressive organizations.
While speaking to the Gauri Lankesh News, Mallapa Kumbar of the Karnataka Sexual minorities forum Bengaluru said-
This ‘transgender persons (protection of rights) bill 2019 is completely against basic tenets of our constitution and against the values of democracy. The suggestions of transgender community have been totally ignored in drafting the bill and the bill is against the community’s wishes. In 2014 supreme court had given a historic judgement recognizing the most exploited and neglected transgender people as third gender. And most importantly this judgement had upheld constitutional ethics and had ordered to give complete freedom to choose their choice of gender. But the current bill neglects all these points and instead of bringing the community into the mainstream, it criminalizes the community. And it has been passed both the houses of parliament. Our community has been opposing this bill for the last four years and if they really want to empower the community, they should have a consultation with the community and consider the violence faced by the members of the community.
The bill is regressive and does not include points from the very progressive Nalsa judgement 2014 and the private bill of Tiruchi Siva (Tamilnadu MLC),The Rights of Transgendered Persons, 2014 which actually talk about a range of entitlements of such persons, providing specifically for them in health, education sectors, skill development and employment opportunities, and protection from abuse and torture. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha. Instead, the government brought this bill which is not only unconstitutional but anti-democratic.
Another person from the sexual minorities forum said-
MPs who are unaware of our existence and who were totally ignorant of 2014 NALSA judgement have drafted the bill and passed it. We feel and want to convey that in the country which has the biggest ever written constitution, this bill is biggest betrayal of constitution and to the exploited community. We condemn the authoritarian attitude of not consulting the affected people before drafting a bill about the very affected people. And we will never agree to the bill, which curtails our constitutional rights.
The transgender community in Tamil Nadu has taken to a unique way to urge President Ram Nath Kovind not to sign the Bill passed in Parliament. The Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition (TNRC) along with a number of other groups is sending postcards to the President. According to a report by TheNewsMinute, as many as 7,000 postcards have already been sent by TNRC and members of various other transgender rights’ groups. It further urges the President to “respect the voice of the unheard” by refusing to give the Bill legal validity.