The Lok Sabha has passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, which seeks to empower the transgender community in the country by providing them a separate identity.
- To protect transgenders from discrimination
- To evolve a holistic mechanism for the social, economic and educational empowerment of marginalized transgenders community
What will it do?
- The Bill will benefit a large number of transgender persons, mitigate the stigma, discrimination and abuse against them and also bring them into the mainstream of society.
- It will lead to greater inclusiveness and will make the transgender persons productive members of the society.
- The Bill will make all the stakeholders responsive and accountable for upholding the principles underlying the Bill.
- It will bring greater accountability on the part of the Union Government and Slate Governments/UT administrations for issues concerning Transgender persons.
Why all this is necessary?
- Transgender community is among one of the most marginalized communities in the country because they don’t fit into the stereotypical categories of gender of ‘men’ or ‘women’.
- They face problems ranging from social exclusion, ostracism and discrimination, as well as verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
- They don’t have access to education and employment opportunities, ending up into organised groups, forced begging or demanding money.
Features of Bill:
- The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 Bill defines a transgender person as one who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male. Additionally, the bill states that the person’s gender must not match the assigned gender at birth.
- Every transgender person in the country must obtain an identity certificate which will be used as the proof of recognition of identity as a transgender person and to avail all the rights under the Bill.
- The identity certificate would be granted by the District Magistrate on the recommendation of a Screening Committee.
- The screening committee for recommending the certificate would comprise a medical officer, a psychologist or psychiatrist, a district welfare officer, a government official, and a transgender person.
- The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 prohibits discriminating with transgender people in education, employment, healthcare and other areas
- The Bill directs the central and state governments for providing welfare schemes to the Transgender community in these areas.
- The Bill also provides for the punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine for offences like compelling a transgender person to beg, denial of access to a public place, physical and sexual abuse, etc.
Journey of the bill and Analysis:
- The transgender community saw the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in NALSA v. Union of India as a victory, as it recognised that transgender persons have fundamental rights.
- The judgment was followed by a private member’s Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, which was unanimously passed in the Rajya Sabha.
- Instead of introducing it in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry uploaded its own Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015, on its website in December for public comments.
- The 2015 Bill, which was largely based on the 2014 Bill, did away with the national and State commissions for transgender persons and transgender rights courts.
- The Bill was fairly progressive since it granted a transgender person the right to be identified as a ‘man’, ’woman’ or ‘transgender’.
- However, the 2016 Bill, that was finally introduced in the Lok Sabha, came as a shock.
- A highly diluted version, it also pathologised transgender persons by defining them as “partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male”.
- Met with backlash, the Ministry set up an expert standing committee on social justice and empowerment to examine the Bill.
- The standing committee invited public comments and thereafter held multiple rounds of consultations.
- Its report criticised the 2016 Bill for its stark deficiencies and recommended re-drafting the definition of a ‘transgender person’ to make it inclusive and accurate; providing for the definition of discrimination and setting up a grievance redress mechanism to address cases of discrimination; and granting reservations to transgender persons.
- However, its substance lay in its insistence that the law must grant equal civil rights to transgender persons (marriage, divorce and adoption), thus opening the door for the legal system to take steps to undo its oppressive heteronormative (the presumption that heterosexuality is the norm) and cisgendered (the presumption that people’s gender identity is aligned with their anatomical sex) foundation.
- The Ministry’s decision to re-introduce the 2016 Bill disregards the pre-legislative consultative policy which requires Ministries to grant a minimum of 30 days for public comments and to place a summary of feedback/comments received from the public/other stakeholders on their website.