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Govt of India must stop criminalization of traditional Hijra livelihoods: NAPM

Counterview Desk
India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), in a statement signed by senior social activists* led by Medha Patkar, have demanded thst Parliament must "urgently review" two legislations on transgender person's rights and anti-trafficking.
Pointing out that NAPM stands in solidarity with oppressed groups by observing December 28 as the National Day of Rage against "regressive" provisions of both the Bills, it said, the Government of India must "ensure all constitutional safeguards, including right to life, liberty, equality, self-determination, non-discrimination and reservations".

Text of the statement:

A year after their national protest, hundreds of persons from the transgender community are once again stormed the streets of Delhi today. They are resisting the draconian provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 that has been recently passed by the Lok Sabha and is pending consideration of the Rajya Sabha.
In the past ten days since the Transgender Bill was passed, the community has vigorously expressed its outrage across the country, in state after state and the media as well as civil society had to take note of and widely report the gross violations and inadequacies in the Bill.
Except for adopting a more reasonable definition of transgender persons, the present ('amended') Bill has retained most of the problematic aspects of the previous regressive versions.
This includes District Screening Committee for approval of gender; lesser punishments for perpetrators of offences on trans persons vis-a-vis cisgender persons; criminalization of traditional Hijra livelihoods; conflating intersex and gender non-conforming persons with transpersons; and constituting National Council (instead of a Commission at Central and State level) without adequate representation of the gender-diverse community, autonomy and powers to enforce its directives.
The Bill now pending before the Rajya Sabha has no provisions for reservations for transpersons in education and employment, secure access to health and medicare and has very weak framework to address the myriad forms of everyday discrimination that the community faces.
NAPM re-affirms its earnest solidarity with the demands and concerns raised by the transgender, gender queer and intersex community that the present version of the Bill completely ignores the progressive provisions of the Tiruchi Siva’s Private Member Bill (passed by Rajya Sabha in 2015 and pending before Lok Sabha), or the Judgement of the Apex Court in NALSA versus Union of India (2014) or even the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Along with the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 (passed by Lok Sabha a few months ago), this regressive legislation is likely to jeopardize hijra and other transgender, gender non conforming communities and further discrimination, harassment, and institutional violence.
The Trafficking Bill, passed without consulting a broad-based constituency including working class sex workers and their organizations provide harsh punishments of 10 years for begging. Several provisions of the Bill go against fundamental principles of criminal justice and the Indian Constitution. The Bill vests excessive powers in the police and creates several layers of bureaucratic institutions with no accountability.
It is imperative that marginalised communities of sex workers, bonded labourers, contract workers, domestic workers, construction workers, transgender persons, inter-state, intra-state and international migrant workers are adequately consulted and heard before the Bill is considered by the Rajya Sabha.
The Bill uses the questionable approach of 'rescue' and institutionalized 'rehabilitation' of adult persons who are not necessarily 'trafficked' and have a constitutional right to engage in different forms of work.
The slew of recent instances of sexual abuse of women and girls in various state and NGO run ‘protection’ homes should compel the Government to review its policy of institutionalized rehabilitation by engaging widely with various sections of civil society.
It is both unfortunate and unacceptable that the Parliament is reinforcing patriarchal norms through these Bills and infact missing a radical opportunity to correct the historical injustice perpetuated on the trans community, as pointed out by the Apex Court, both in the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgement and the much celebrated Navtej Singh Johar judgement while reading down of Sec 377 IPC.
We call upon the Rajya Sabha not to pass the Transgender Bill in haste and instead refer it to a Select Committee wherein all the recommendations of the Public Service Commission (PSC), NALSA Judgement and Tiruchi Siva Bill are considered in due earnest.
We also call upon the Rajya Sabha to refer the Anti-Trafficking Bill to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha and consult all the stake holders who stand to be adversely affected by the contentious provisions of the Bill.
We call upon the Government of India to ensure all constitutional rights and safeguards of transpersons, sex workers and other marginalized sections, including right to life, liberty, equality, self-determination, non-discrimination and reservations.
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*Click HERE for the list of signatories

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