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Transgender Persons Bill, 2016

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On 19 November 2017, a national newspaper, the Indian Express, carried a front-page report that says that the government has rejected all the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016. Instead, the government will be tabling an earlier, unamended version in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government of India has failed the trans, intersex, and gender variant citizens in spite of making grand promises. This news is terribly disappointing to say the least, and outrage has been expressed by many trans and intersex activists. The bill, in its current form, does not uphold the right to self-identify gender, proposes that physical screenings by district screening committees be used to certify trans, gender variant, and intersex people as transgender, offers token measures in the name of anti-discrimination, and refuses to recognise the distinct, even though sometimes overlapping, concerns of trans and gender variant individuals from intersex persons.

The bill also criminalises begging, proposing six months to two years’ imprisonment with fine. This puts vulnerable trans and intersex women who beg on the streets of India, due to lack of any other livelihood options, at grave risk of further police and state violence. The bill is simultaneously silent on any alternate livelihood schemes in addition to not addressing the issues of affirmative action in education, employment, and trans and intersex healthcare.

While many countries have made exemplary strides in trans and intersex rights—for example, Malta and Argentina—India will be stepping backwards in immeasurable ways, if this bill is passed. Governments are constituted as representative of their people, especially of their minority citizens. The state has a special obligation towards those communities that have been disenfranchised historically and continue to be vulnerable till date. Various sections of our communities worked with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment over many months, culminating with the depositions held till the end of 2016. Instead of taking into account our submissions, our very life stories and conditions, and committing to us that an environment for correcting the historical injustices will be ensured, this government has acted undemocratically, making a mockery of our communities, our efforts at collaboration, as well as the very standing committee they appointed.

The Sampoorna Working Group outrightly rejects the current version of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, and will question, resist, and oppose it. All citizens are sovereign persons, and it is not up to any government/state mechanisms to tell us what our gender identity is. It is for us to self-determine. Additionally, the recent Supreme Court judgment on privacy reinforces the autonomy and agency that citizens have over their own bodies. Similarly, it is not up to any government to propose schemes that violate our right to dignity and life. It is the government’s political obligation to consider recommendations given repeatedly (over many months) by trans, gender variant, and intersex individuals and communities.

We strongly appeal to all concerned citizens to oppose this bill.

Sampoorna Working Group

Updated On : 4th Dec, 2017

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