While India debated over Article 370 and the move to bifurcate the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, Lok Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019. Aimed at empowering the transgender community, the bill was tabled after the 2014 Supreme Court judgment that affirmed fundamental rights to transgender people and declared .
Neetu Kumar, a consultant working at Delhi-based LGBTQ rights NGO Mitr Trust which also doubles as a modelling agency, told InUth,
“The 2014 NALSA judgment, we were given certain rights like the right to self-identification, right to livelihood, right to expression…It says we had the right to choose what we want to eat, how we dress and where we travel. It gave us the right to identify our gender in our ID cards.”
This led to the government tabling Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill which was first proposed in 2016 and has since undergone many amendments.
“Some positive amendments have been implemented in this like decriminalising beggary. Begging is no longer a criminal offence. This includes giving blessings which is a tradition in the community. Those kinners, hijras, jogtas etc who give blessings on social occasions by singing and dancing for donations are doing so that they can pay their way. Earlier, for males to identify as females or for females to identify as males, they had to undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) or any other medical intervention. But now this is not there. Now we have the right to self-identification”
But the bill still requires a medical officer to physically screen transgenders to determine their gender.
“If you’re giving us a right to self-identification, like I identify as a transwoman, someone else might identify as hijra or somebody might want to identify as a transman, so if we have a right to identify our gender so I don’t think there is no need to give us a certification. Because men and women don’t have to get a certificate to recognise their gender. If we’ve been recognised as ‘third gender’, so why do we need to have a certificate for the same?”
The bill also doesn’t have any provisions for transpersons to appeal if they get rejected. It also undermines sexual violence faced by the transgender community every day and neither gives transpersons the right to marry, adopt or inherit property.
“If a person wants to spend their lives with someone who they love and respect, like a woman can marry a man or a man can marry a woman, then why shouldn’t transpersons also get the right to marry?
If transwomen can’t become mothers then there should be an option for adoption. We can secure future of those children who are living without having any parent.”
The Bill has not yet been tabled before the Rajya Sabha and will reportedly be referred to a standing parliamentary committee before the winter session of the Parliament commences.