TG Bill 2018-The bill of rights?

The Government of India’s Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 passed in the Lok Sabha on the 17th of December 2018 doesn’t provide protection from sexual harassment and assault or reservation in education and employment to the community; it criminalises begging – their only source of livelihood, slaughters the notion of gender self- identification and infantilizes them by not allowing them to choose their family and home themselves.

The Bill passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government, has made 27 amendments to the original Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014.

The historic Bill, which was the first private member’s legislation passed in over 4 decades in the Upper House since Independence, recognised a third gender and propounded various schemes for the upliftment and empowerment of the transgender community and to annihilate the discrimination faced by the transgender community.

The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Tiruchi Siva, Member of Parliament representing Tamil Nadu, from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party and was passed in the Upper House on 24th April 2015. The now passed Bill, does not reflect any of the ideas set in the original bill and violates the judgement by the Supreme Court of India in the case of National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India, or the NALSA judgment wherein transgender is recognised as a third gender, and it is taken into account that various provisions need to be provided to ensure basic socio-economic and political rights to the transgender community.

While the 2018 Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha amended the problematic definition of transgender, but it still leaves room for ambiguity. The definition was amended to “a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to that 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), person with intersex variations, gender- queer and person having such socio-cultural identities as kinner, hijra, aravani and jogta.” which is better than the original definition, but it erroneously assumes the intersex and the gender queer community as part of transgender identity.

The transgender community faces discrimination in education and employment opportunities, and are forced to resort to begging however, the Bill criminalises begging and and prescribes a jail term for 6 months to 2 years for anyone who “compels or entices a transgender person to indulge in the act of begging” taking away their only source of livelihood, without providing for other alternatives to sustain themselves.

They need reservation or affirmative affection to avail their basic rights in politics, education, jobs so on and so forth but the current Bill makes no promises of the same.

The Bill contravenes their constitutional Right to Freedom of Residence under the Article 19 (I )(e). A clause in the Bill states, “Where any parent or a member of his immediate family is unable to take care of a transgender, the competent court shall by an order direct such person to be placed in a rehabilitation centre.” The transgender community aren’t given the freedom to choose their family and homes as opposed to their cis-counterparts. It also forces them to the place which is the primary source of violence and discrimination for most of them. The community doesn’t need rehabilitation, they need equity through upliftment and empowerment.

The Bill states that a person who “harms or injures or endangers the life, safety, health, or well-being, whether mental or physical, of a transgender person or tends to do acts including causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years and with fine.”

Thus, if the Bill is passed, rape and sexual harassment against a trans person or endangerment of their life and safety or otherwise will be a trivial affair or a petty crime, wherein raping a transgender person is less punishable in the eyes of law than it is to a cis-female individual.

It violates the transgender​ ​​​​​​persons’ rights under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution,

of gender self-identification and dehumanises them for a clause in the Bill reads,“A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for issuing a certificate of identity as a transgender person… District Magistrate shall refer such application to the District Screening Committee to be constituted by the appropriate Government for the purpose of recognition of transgender persons.”

Thus, a person can only identify as transgender upon receiving a certificate by the District Screening Committee. Also, those who identify as male or female must necessarily, should have undergone through the Sex Reassignment Surgery which destroys the idea of gender as a social construct, and reduces the individual to a sum of their genitalia.

Hence, the transgender community along with activists and their cis-allies are protesting against the Bill calling it the ‘Transgender Persons (Violation of Rights) Bill, 2018’.The community from across the entire nation had gathered at the Jantar Mantar and Tolstoy Road, in Delhi on 28th December 2018 to demand their fundamental rights.The community is fighting and struggling, and calls forth the support and solidarity of the entire nation in their resistance.