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Gender discrimination, transphobia characterize Govt of India approach to transgender persons: WSS

By Our Representative
Even as taking strong exception to Union woman and child minister Maneka Gandhi calling transgender persons as ‘other ones’, followed by Aam Aadmi Party leader Alka Lamba referring to them as ‘beech wale’ (middle-ones), top civil rights organization, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) has sharply criticized the Government of India’s (GoI’s) overall approach of “gender discrimination and transphobia” towards the transgender people.
Suggesting that this is clear from the way the GoI handled the case of Shanavi Ponnusamy, who was denied “a job by Air India to on account of her identifying herself as a transwoman”, WSS in a 2600-word statement says, 26-year-old old Shanavi, a first graduate from Tiruchendur in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu, is an electronics and communications engineer and has been “denied employment 24 times because of her gender identity.”
Noting how GoI bureaucracy treated her, WSS says, “When Shanavi wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office, her complaint was forwarded to the Ministry for Civil Aviation to seek redressal where she was blatantly told that the transgender category ‘does not exist in the recruitment policy and if this category is introduced anytime in future we will advertised vacancies accordingly’!”
Shanavi
Says WSS, when Shanavi approached the Supreme Court for redressal, the Air India, in its counter-affidavit, “disparagingly described Shanavi as ‘inefficient’ and ‘lacking in merit’,” underlining, “The meritocratic argument has been used historically against the assertions made by the socially oppressed groups and it only goes on to expose the deeply pervasive casteist and Brahminical attitudes prevalent in our society.”
Pointing out that this led Shanavi to writing to the President of India seeking mercy killing, WSS says, “Do they even imagine what it means for a transwoman, who has suffered indignity, discrimination and rejection all her life to assert herself and struggle and come to this stage? Here's the country's first ever transperson, in our 70 years of independence, who could be a potential cabin crew and this is how AI seeks to treat her!”
Underlining that Shanavi’s case also suggests that the GoI is refusing to implement the directions of the Supreme Court in NALSA judgment, 2014, which states that transgender persons must not be discriminated against and that the state must proactively provide employment through affirmative action and reservation, WSS says, the stereotypes against transgender persons is also reflected in the type of legislations the GoI has recently proposed.
Thus, WSS says, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, pending in Parliament, “displays an extremely problematic understanding of transgender identity and calls for the creation of lengthy and bureaucratic hurdles for the recognition of transgender identity by the state.”
“The Bill even encodes discrimination by prescribing lower punishments for physical and sexual assaults upon transgender persons than upon cisgender women”, says WSS, adding, “While not providing any reservations or anti-discriminatory punitive measures for transgender persons, the bill criminalizes the tradition of community begging and community living which sustain the transgender community.”
Maneka Gandhi
Further, says WSS, the more recent Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, which has been passed in the Lok Sabha on July 26, 2018, seeks to criminalize sex work and begging, “which are very often the only source of livelihood for transgender persons owing to their precarious socio-economic condition”, adding, “The Bill creates a new category of ‘aggravated trafficking’ which elevates begging as a crime over other forms of trafficking, and also criminalizes the supply of hormone therapy commonly used by transgender persons while transitioning.”
It states, “The anti-trafficking Bill reduces trafficking to a law-and-order problem by ignoring its socio-economic dimensions and grossly violates the dignity and autonomy of the persons identified as ‘victims’,” demanding that it should be “referred to a standing committee of the Parliament and not allowed to be pass in the Rajya Sabha without extensively consultations with begging and sex work communities, including transgender and cisgender members of these communities.”

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