Centre acts on outrage against Transgender Persons Bill, proposes key changes

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment expands the definition of 'transgender' and proposes to make provisions for sex reassignment surgery

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has sought to bring in a few changes to the draft of the widely rejected Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill.

The previous version of the draft restricted the definition of transgender as one who is partly female, or male or a combination of female and male, or neither female nor male. As per DNA, the ministry is now looking to expand the definition as one “whose gender does not match to the gender assigned to the person at birth and includes trans-man or trans-woman (whether or not such person has undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy or such other therapy), gender-queer, and persons having such socio-cultural identities as kinnar, hijra, aravani, jogta, kothi, or other similar identity”.

Hijra Transgender | Wikipedia Image for InUth.com

The ministry has proposed to define intersex people as those “who at birth shows variation in primary sexual characteristics, external genitalia, chromosomes, or hormones from a normative standard of male or female body”. This is a welcome change from the previous definitions which activists said suggested were based on the concept of Ardhanaari in Hindu mythology.

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The government is considering on removing the setting up of a District Screening Committee to determine and certify transgenders, which transgender activists said was contrary to WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) guidelines and necessitated the inclusion of a chief medical officer.

There will also be provisions in the redraft to provide medical cover for Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) through comprehensive insurance schemes and for children to not be separated from people who identify as transgender.


Participants at the first state-level consultation meet on rehabilitation and welfare of transgenders | Photo Courtesy: The Indian Express

The ministry sent the changes to the law ministry which has approved the aforementioned changes to the original draft before the bill is set to be introduced in the winter session of the Parliament. However, it needs to be cleared by the cabinet as well.

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However, the bill still does not exempt transgenders from the ambit of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalises non peno-vaginal sex. The bill doesn’t take into account the complete recommendations of the Standing Committee report which advised to include transgenders in Other Backward Classes so as to avail reservation in government jobs and educational institutions. The bill ignores House panel’s recommendation on providing mental health care and counselling facilities as well as the inclusion of a section on transgenders in application forms.