We need a Transgender Commission: Activists

The new bill on transgenders criminalises begging and “that for some of us is a practice we have been following for ages,” a transgender activist complained


Ashlin Mathew

The central government’s decision to disregard the recommendations of a parliamentary committee report, which recognised the rights of transgender persons to partnership and marriage, has triggered a wave of protests by the transgender community members across the country.

The Ministry of Social Justice has decided to table the original Transgender Persons Bill 2016, which has been accused of being “discriminatory” and “violative.”

“The recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which brought out a fairly progressive report, have been ignored,” said Anindya Hajra, a transgender activist, who was in the Capital to protest the tabling of the bill during the Winter Session of the Parliament. “This Bill institutionalises apartheid amongst the transgender and hijra community,” Hajra added.

On Sunday, LGBTIQ activists from across the country gathered at Sansad Marg in New Delhi to protest against the bill.

“We have always been discriminated against. The Bill says that a transgender means a person who is neither wholly male nor female, a combination of male or female, or neither male or female. This definition is problematic. The Bill attempts to define us, but it disregards all our concerns,” said Hajra.

The activists from around the country demanded the setting up of a Transgender Commission on the lines of Women’s Commission and Minorities Commission. “We need to be understood and only we can understand the issues faced by our community. No one else accepts us as we are. We can’t even complain to the police because we could be sexually harassed. So, where do we go then?” questions Veena, a transwoman activist from Karnataka.

identification should be upheld. How can a committee comprising officials decide my gender. They should uphold NALSA vs Union of India Supreme Court judgement stating that it is illegal for governments to insist on surgery or hormones for declaring the gender. They are making an entire section of those who identify as transman. They have added the inter-sex person also within the same umbrella, but they are different. It can’t come under one,” added Hajra.

“To understand transgender lives, you need to understand gender. Most people never have to think of their gender, maybe women have to, but not every day. We live in a gendered space. From physical spaces such as bus seats to bathrooms, they are all segregated on the basis of gender. What about school uniforms and hospitals? Access to these spaces is also decided by gender. Even in constitutional spaces we are constantly attacked – be it on the road or the police station or a court room. In a case recently, they didn’t know what law to apply because transgenders were attacked. This Bill has been created in isolation,” elaborates Mridul, a transperson from Mumbai.

The Bill criminalises begging and “that for some of us is a practice we have been following for ages. We are followers of Lord Yellama and it is considered auspicious for us to do so. And now, suddenly the government has decided it is wrong. It is nothing but a violation of human rights,” said Nisha Golu, a transwoman from Karnataka.

The government needs to address issues of the livelihood of trangenders. “If the government decides to criminalise begging, how are we going to earn? Have they thought of avenues where we could earn money from? They need to identify work spaces for us instead of discriminating against us,” pointed out Sudheer, a transperson from Maharashtra.

“We have had to discontinue our studies due to the harassment which happens in educational institutions, so then how do we get a job or earn a living. Begging is our only option. Who will take action? Who will be responsible,” added Veena.

“We need to speak about our rights to marry and adopt. The government is not interested. All the suggestions by the Supreme Court are being ignored,” said Veena, with despair in her voice.

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