In 2015, a transwoman was asked to vacate her flat in Mumbai’s Jogeshwari allegedly on the grounds of her sexuality. Last year, transgender rights activist Akkai Padmashali was denied home loan by multiple banks in Bengaluru, which she said was because of her sex. In an effort to eliminate such discrimination, Bihar became the first state in the country where one can’t deny transgender persons their right to rent or buy a house.
Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said that those who deny accommodation to members of the transgender community on the basis of their gender may have to face a jail term of up to 6 years. He announced at Kinnar Mahotsava in Patna,
“The government has devised to sentence all who will refuse to give their flats or houses on rent to the members of the transgender community with six to two years of jail term.”
The state government has also established Bihar State Transgender Welfare Board to look into facilities provided to the members of the community in other states. The government also announced financial assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh to anyone from the community to wishes to undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS).
Difficult to find a home
The first-ever study conducted by the National Human Rights Commission on the state of transgender persons in India revealed that societal gender discrimination has largely isolated the community. Only 2% of transgender persons stay with their parents while over half of them live under Guru-Chela system wherein Gurus take care of their shelter in lieu of a cut in their incomes. Another survey conducted by YouGov earlier this year states that 36% of transgender respondents in north India and 14% in west India reported being discriminated while finding housing.
Those seeking housing are reportedly harassed by landlords and property agents who ask uncomfortable and unnecessary questions. Some are asked to pay nearly double the rent by landlords and are charged higher commissions by agents.
Kiran, a social activist and counsellor working with the Naz Foundation, told HT,
“We are asked to pay an exorbitant amount because they want to discourage us from taking their homes. And, if we agree to pay the amount, they make a clean profit anyway.”
What the law says
In its 2014 verdict, the Supreme Court declared that transgender persons have equal human and fundamental rights as any other citizens. The judgment also emphasised on the right to own a property as a basic human right that needs to be extended to the members of the transgender community. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018, which recently passed in Lok Sabha, also forbids persons or establishment to deny or discontinuation of the right to reside, rent or occupy any property.
Other such initiatives
In 2018, Bihar recruited the transgender community to help protect women and girls living in care homes after incidences of sexual assaults occurring in short-stay homes were widely reported. In 2015, West Bengal became one of the first states to set up Transgender Welfare Development Board in an effort to improve living conditions. In Delhi, a transgender rights group declared 25 government schools in the city as ‘transgender inclusive’ on the basis of allotting separate toilets facilities for gender non-conforming children and conducting sessions on LGBTQ-related issues.