For the first time since its inception in 1993, India’s top human rights body— the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)—has finally made efforts to understand the condition of the transgender community in India. The results of the study have only confirmed the long-told stories of discrimination, violence, deprivation and abuse faced by transgenders in India. Nonetheless, it’s a welcome move in an effort to take forward the conversation on transgender rights.
So what did NHRC do?
According to a Times of India report, the NHRC, in collaboration with a research organization Kerala Development Society (KDS), took up its first-ever study to gauge the condition and living standards of transgender community in India.
What did they find?
The study only reiterated the shocking daily humiliation and harassment faced by people belonging to the third gender. However, it was also able to provide a quantifiable picture of the apathy and discrimination they face.
According to the 2011 census, there are 4.9 lakh transgenders in India. However, the estimates by transgender activists and organizations put the figure between 60-80 lakh as many avoid to reveal their identity due to discrimination.
Take a look at these figures:
- Around 92% of transgenders are deprived of the right to participate in any form of economic activity, forcing the majority of transgenders to resort to sex work and begging.
- Reflecting rampant social discrimination and abuse even within the family setup, the study found out that only 2% transgenders live with their families. However, leaving their families is not a guarantee against social discrimination as 99% of the respondents said they faced social rejection on more than one occasion.
- 50-60% of transgenders have never attended school and those who have faced continuous harassment from classmates and teachers. While 62% said they are verbally abused in school, 15 percent said they are harassed by students as well as teachers.
- The most damning finding of the study was NHRC’s observation that the government failed to implement the Supreme Court’s guidelines to improve the lives of transgenders and create laws to ensure their safety from discrimination and abuse. The only states which took some measures in this regard are Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
- Highlighting the massive “identity crisis” the community faces in a “gender-specific” country, the study said 57 percent transgenders want to undergo sex-reassignment surgery but can’t afford to do so due to poverty.
Will things change?
The answer lies in the status of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 which is still pending before the parliament. While the bill is not a panacea for the problems faced by transgenders in India, the legislation, if passed, will be a landmark effort in ensuring social justice and an end to centuries-old discrimination.
Earlier this month, the government reintroduced the transgender bill after clearing 27 amendments to the original draft of the bill. The government also accepted nine of the 11 major suggestions of a parliamentary standing committee formed to study the bill. However, with the end of the monsoon session of parliament, the bill didn’t come up for the discussion.