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Transgender Bill testimony of Govt of India's ‘contempt’ for marginalized community

Counterview Desk
India’s civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)* has said that the controversial transgender Bill, passed in the Rajya Sabha on November 26, which happened to be the 70th anniversary of the Indian Constitution, is a reflection on the way the Government of India looks at the marginalized community with utter contempt.
Condemning the passage of the “regressive" transgender rights Bill despite severe opposition, NAPM in a statement has sought urgent Presidential intervention, stating, President Ram Nath Kovind must return it to the Rajya Sabha for reconsideration by a Select Committee.

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In yet another of its egregious legislative misadventures, the BJP Government with the support of some other parties, passed the regressive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill in the Rajya Sabha despite wide-spread opposition by members of the transgender, intersex and gender non-confirming communities, who had sought to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.
We have all been witness to and allies of the struggles of the transgender community in their consistent resistance against this Bill in the past few years. Nothing could be a greater shame and sham that such a violative piece of law was passed on the 70th anniversary of the Indian Constitution! While it is being claimed that the Bill does have some 'enabling and supportive provisions', it is flawed in many fundamental ways:
One, it takes away the inalienable right to gender self-identification as guaranteed by National Legal Services Authority v Union of India, known as NASLA judgement, 2014, of the Supreme Court and retains the humiliating and transphobic provision that empowers district magistrates to 'certify' a person as transgender at first instance and as male/female only after surgery.
Two, it prescribes only 6 months to 2 years’ punishment for perpetrators of sexual violence on trans persons as against 7 years’ punishment in the case of sexual violence on cisgender women, thereby legislating a secondary class of citizenship for trans persons.
Three, the Bill requires young transgender people, to reside with their birth family, completely overlooking the fact that domestic violence of trans persons is the norm. The only 'alternative' in the Bill is court-directed 'rehabilitation' in shelter homes, thereby infantilizing trans persons who are independent and equal citizens.
Four, the Bill is visibly devoid of effective provisions for reservations and affirmative action in education, employment and health care, without which trans, intersex and gender nonconforming people can never have access to fair opportunities and dignified lives.
Five, the 'anti-discrimination' provisions are quite weak with no mention of the unique forms of discriminations faced and no commensurate penalties, making the Bill high on rhetoric and low on real commitment towards trans justice.
And six, there is only a mechanism for a National Transgender Council, without any body at the state level. The Council, an executive body with no autonomy and no judicial/quasi powers, will not be able to effectively address the many concerns of the community and remain dependent on the government for carrying out its functions.
In all, the Bill stands as a testimony of the contempt the current government has for the transgender community and its obvious lack of commitment to ensure justice to those who are perpetually marginalized. If the Government really cared for the rights of the trans-community, they should have implemented the directives of the Supreme Court in NALSA vs Union of India, which they never did, despite being in power since 2014.
What was also very disturbing was the manner in which the Bill has been rushed through, violating the directives of the Apex Court in the NALSA Judgement, ignoring the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and disregarding the voices and views of the transgender, intersex and gender non-confirming people across the country. Callous inferences jibes and inadequate attendance point to how transgender people are ill-treated to this day, even by the 'law-makers'.
Bill prescribes 6 months to 2 years’ punishment for perpetrators of sexual violence on trans persons as against 7 years’ punishment in case of cisgender women
That the Chairperson of the Upper House, did not find 'merit' in referring such a crucial Bill to a Select Committee and instead allowed it to be 'passed' in haste, despite efforts by MPs of some opposition parties like DMK, INC, AITC, BJP, CPM, SP, AIADMK, AAP, RJD, CPI, NCP to introduce amendments, raise objections and send the Bill to the Select Committee, is a telling expose of our parliamentary procedures.
The President of India has so far been signing on a series of regressive bills (RTI, UAPA etc) which defy the constitutional spirit. We hope against hope that the President would refrain from doing so at least in the case of the most marginalized transgender community.
We call upon the President to send back the Bill to Rajya Sabha for fair reconsideration by a Select Committee, inviting and incorporating the suggestions of transgender, intersex and gender non-confirming people from across the country.
National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) stands in solidarity with the valiant transgender community, betrayed and violated yet again, this time in the garb of 'protection' of their rights. We call upon all democratic forces to see this also as an issue of violation of basic citizenship rights, civil & constitutional freedoms and institutional compromise.
We demand that the NALSA judgement, which has the force of law to this day, be implemented in full letter and spirit. A comprehensive legislation that addresses all forms of discrimination and guarantees all civil rights to transgender, intersex and gender non-confirming communities alone would undo the historic injustice inflicted by the state and society.
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*Click here for list of signatories

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