Transgender groups and activists on Wednesday held protests over the transgender rights bill passed by the Lok Sabha, calling it “violative”.
On Monday, the Lok Sabha passed The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 with 27 amendments. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said the objectives of the bill included protecting interests of transgender persons, defining the term ‘transgender’, giving them recognition and setting up a national transgender council.
“Today black day for us,” Dalit trans rights activist Grace Bhanu wrote on Facebook soon after the bill was passed.
Transgender activists disagree with the provisions of the bill, saying it makes the community vulnerable to more abuse.
Under the new legislation, anyone who “compels or entices a transgender person” to beg could face jail time of up to two years—a clause that campaigners say could be misused to imprison transgender people.
A prison term of six months to two years would be applicable for sex crimes against transgender persons.
“(The bill)... reinforces and deepens the apartheid that exists in this country against trans persons,” said Anindya Hajra, a transgender woman and activist at Pratyay Gender Trust told Reuters. “The bill is violative, it is not protection. We reject the bill in its present form,” he said.
The bill proposes that a “screening committee” of experts issue identity certificates to individuals, which activists say could leave transgender people vulnerable to abuse.
Meera Sanghamitra, a transgender woman and activist, told Reuters the current bill would make life more difficult for the community, especially by refusing the right to self-determine gender.
“What is between my two legs does not determine my gender. My gender is my experience, my gender is my identity, my gender is my decision and my exclusive decision—and this is not being recognised by this country’s parliament,” she said.
Lok Sabha debate
During the debate in the Lok Sabha, Congress member Shashi Tharoor had called for the “flawed” bill to be withdrawn. “We need to recognise transgenders’ identity as it goes beyond male and female”, he said and added that the government has “blindly” borrowed the definition of transgenders.
“The bill also fails to define discrimination against transgenders,” the Congress leader said, calling for certain clauses to be redrafted.
BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said there was no clarity on the term “self perceived gender identity” and “how it will be enforced”. He said the definition of transgenders was not complete and that other terms such as transmen and transwomen were not defined.
NCP’s Supriya Sule said a transgender commission at the national level was not enough. “We are asking for a welfare board for transgenders. They need equal rights,” she said, demanding a helpline number for the community.
While seeking passage of the bill, minister Gehlot had said the bill was complete and there was no need for more discussion. “A long discussion has taken place on this issue. It has also gone to the parliamentary standing committee. We have included several of their suggestions,” he said.
The bill is expected to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha before the winter session ends on 8 January, where activists are hoping it will be rejected.
(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)