The Women and Child Development Minister made shockingly crude statements about sex workers and transgender people in Parliament recently.

Anti-trafficking coalition demands apology from Maneka for transphobic remarks in ParlPTI photo
news Human rights Sunday, July 29, 2018 - 16:25

On Thursday, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 came up for discussion in the Lok Sabha, which is presently in its monsoon session.

In a shameful turn of events, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi not only displayed transphobia in Parliament, but also laughed while making anti-transgender and anti-women comments.

The Lok Sabha passed the Bill, despite several reservations from stakeholders like sex workers and transgender rights activists.

In response to Maneka’s remarks, the Coalition on an Inclusive Approach to the Anti-Trafficking Bill 2018, comprising activists, journalists, lawyers, organisations and individuals working for women’s rights, children, sex workers, the trans community and labour, wrote a memorandum to the minister. They demanded that Maneka withdraw her “unparliamentarily and crude remarks about women and transgender individuals”.

Here’s the text of the memorandum, reproduced in full.

----

 #Antitraffickingbill2018

29th July 2018

To,

Ms. Maneka Gandhi, 

The Minister,

Ministry for Women and Child Development,

Government of India,

New Delhi.

 Madam Maneka Gandhi, 

We the undersigned organisations and individuals strongly condemn the disparaging remarks made by you as the Minister for Women and Child Department, particularly against sex workers and transgender persons while responding to some objections raised on the Anti-Trafficking Bill 2018 on 26th, July 2018. We represent Organisations, activists, academics, journalists, lawyers, artistes and other concerned individuals  working across the country and outside with women, children, sex workers, transgender individuals, workers in the informal economy including bonded labour, garment workers, domestic workers and construction workers. Many of us had come together under the banner of the Coalition on an Inclusive Approach to the Trafficking Bill, working to ensure that the Anti Trafficking Bill does not criminalise and further stigmatise the vulnerable communities it purports to save and rehabilitate.

Many of the statements you made not only reinforce our apprehensions about the apparently draconian approach of the Bill but they also reinforce the stigma, marginalisation, violence and discrimination faced by these communities on a daily basis. Specifically, while responding Dr. Tharoor’s comprehensively argued critique you suggestively and contemptuously stated, “Here I will be wicked. There are two types of representatives who came to me. One was the Victims of Trafficking and the other was sex workers. Dr. Tharoor accompanied the sex workers."

At another point you shockingly claimed that you did not know how to address transgender persons and infact referred to them as ‘other ones’, laughing and making gestures which clearly conveyed deep disrespect to the transgender persons’ lives, which are full of struggle, due to familial, societal and state neglect, discrimination and violence. This, coming from you, the Minister, has in a way, reinforced the prejudice that is still largely prevalent against transgender persons and we would like to place on record our utmost dismay at the same.   

On both occasions it was equally distasteful and appalling to see that the men sitting behind you smirking and thumping the tables. Your inappropriate conduct undignified not just the significant, high office that you hold and the sanctity of the Parliament, which represents the ‘will of the people’, but more importantly the women and transgender individuals of this country.

We also wish to convey our appreciation of the Speaker who took exception to the laughter in the House and stated that there was nothing wrong or unparliamentarily in Dr Shahi Tharoor accompanying a delegation of sex workers to meet you since he was representing their interests. We also acknowledge the reaffirming remarks by Ms. Supriya Sule (MP) urging you not to address transgender persons as ‘other ones’ and address their concerns vis-à-vis the Anti-Trafficking Bill, 2018.

Your assertion also that it is time for the government to stop “tolerating” issues like begging, sex work etc. was disconcerting since you were presenting a Bill supposedly targeting criminals trafficking vulnerable people into begging, sex work etc and not these “victims” themselves. When vigilantes are today lynching suspected child lifters based only on rumours, irresponsible statements like these from law makers such as yourself will only serve to legitimise such vigilantism and jeopardise the lives of many in vulnerable situations.

Unfortunately, your statements serve to reinforce the growing divide between those working to stop trafficking through criminalisation and those addressing it through a more community-based approach that affirms the dignity and rights of the survivors of trafficking. While the former groups have been central to the process of the Bill, the latter have been kept out of all consultative processes despite the best efforts of many to over the past two years. Instead their efforts at engagement have been discredited and individuals demonised as “promoters” of trafficking.

We trust that you will formally withdraw your unparliamentarily and crude remarks about women and transgender individuals, and in the interests of democracy and justice take on board the concerns we have expressed such that the rights and dignity of adult sex workers, transgender persons, migrant workers, beggars and other vulnerable communities impacted by the Bill will be protected and restored.

Signed By:

1.      Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai

2.      Coalition on an Inclusive Approach to the Trafficking Bill 

3.      GLOBAL ALLIANCE AGAINST TRAFFIC IN WOMEN

4.      EKTA RESOURCE CENTRE FOR WOMEN, MADURAI

5.      GATWU - Garment and Textile Workers Union, Bengaluru

6.      Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali

7.      Saheli Women’s Research Centre, New Delhi

8.      SANGRAM, Maharashtra

9.      MUSKAAN, Maharashtra

10.  VAMP, Karnataka and Maharashtra

11.  Indian Red Cross Society

12.  Centre for World Solidarity; AP, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar states

13.  ANEKA, Bengaluru

14.  Sangama, Bengaluru

15.  Karnataka Sex Workers Union, Karnataka 

16.  Uttar Karnataka Mahila Okkuta, Karnataka

17.  Solidarity Foundation, Bengaluru

18.  LABIA - A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, Mumbai.           

19.  CIEDS Collective, Bengaluru

20.  Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Bengaluru

21.  Indian Red Cross Society

22.  CREA, DELHI

23.  SIFTU – South India Federation of Trade Unions, Bengaluru

24.  KOOGU –Karnataka Garment Workers Union, Bengaluru

25.  MAKAAYU – Manegelasa Karmikara Union, Bengaluru

26.  AKKKU – Akhila Karnataka Kattada Karmikara Union, Bengaluru

27.  AIKYATA – Retired Unorganised Sector Workers Union, Bengaluru                          

28.  FEDINA, Bengaluru

29.  Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Activist and Writer, Delhi

30.  Rinchin, Activist

31.  Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements, (NAPM), Telangana

32.  Rosamma Thomas, Journalist, Pune

33.  Mandakini, Advocate, Hyderabad

34.  Mercedes Sanchez; Language Trainer, Freelance journalist, Hyderabad

35.  Sudha Bharadwaj, Advocate

36.  Dr. Goldy M George, Chief Editor, Journal of People's Studies, Mumbai & Convener-Chhattisgarh Nagrik Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti

37.  Moses Tulasi, Documentary Film Maker

38.  Dr.Susie Tharu, Feminist Author, Hyderabad

39. Nazariya, A Queer Feminist Group, Delhi 

40.  Rita Manchanda

41.  Nileena Atholi

42.  Sumi Krishna, Bengaluru

43.  Andy Silveira

44.  Sreekanth Kannan, Aneka, Bengaluru

45.  Anshi Zachariah,Aneka, Bengaluru

46.  Anupama Kapoor, Mardon Waali Baat, Mumbai

47.  Srabasti, Kolkatta

48.  Pushpa Achanta, Independent Journalist, Bengaluru

49.  Rachana Mudraboyina –

50.  Indu Singh, Chennai

51.  Sham Mohan Singh, USA

52.  Aleyamma Vijayan, Kerala

53.  Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM

54.  Shobha Raghavan, Human rights activist and Theatre artist

55.  Virginia Saldanha,  Indian Chrsitian Women's Movement.

56.  Sagarika Dutta

57.  Anshi Zachariah 

58.  Mridul, TISS, Mumbai

59.  Bittu Karthik, WSS and Telengana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samithi, Hyderabad

60.  Dr B Karthik Navayan, Human Rights Activist, Bengaluru

61.  Bhargavi Dilip Kumar, Ambedkar University, Delhi

62.  Rumi Harish, Transgender Activist, Bengaluru

63.  Sunil Mohan, Activist

64.  Sonu Niranjan, Transgender Activist, Member - Kerala State Transgender Board

65.  Bobby Kunhu, Advocate, Salem

66.  Meera Raghavendra, Tirupati

67.  Padmaja Shaw

68.  Isha Khandelwal, Advocate, Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group.

69.  Chayanika Shah, Queer Feminist Activist and researcher, Mumbai

70.  Abir Niyogi, LABIA

71.  Keki Ranade, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Mumbai

72.  Sharanya, HUMANE, Koraput

73.  Tashi Choedup (Navadeep), Buddhist Monk

74.  Nisha Biswas

75.  Kavitha Kuruganti, Makaam

76.  Brinelle D”Souza, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

77.  Madhu Bhushan, women’s rights activist, Bengaluru

78.  Shantha Bai, women’s rights activist, Bengaluru

79.  Mamtha M, women’s rights activist, Bengaluru

80.  Shakun Mohini, women’s rights activist, Bengaluru

81.  Kalpana Chakravarty women’s rights activist, Bengaluru

82.  Alternative Law Forum, Bengaluru

83.  Suhas Kolhekar, NAPM; Maharashtra Mahila Arogya Hakka Parishad

84.  Hima Bindu

85.  Amrita De, Anubhuti Trust, Mumbai

86.  Chandana Chakrabarti

87.  Benny Kuruvilla, Researcher, Bengaluru

88.  Freny Manekshaw, Independent Journalist

89.  Nandini Rao, New Delhi

90.  Kirtana Kumar, Director, Theatre Lab (Youth) & Little Jasmine, Bengaluru

91.  Archana, Integrator, Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN)

92.  D.Geetha, Advocate, Chennai.

93.  Rima Ghosh Patranabish, Aneka, Bengaluru

94.  Rupa Malik, New Delhi

100.Shrestha Das, New Delhi

101. Dunu Roy, Bengaluru

102.Dr. Hazel D'Lima, Retired Principal, College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai

103.Nitin Rai, Fellow, ATREE, Bengaluru

104.Anita Rego

105.Pramada Menon, Gurgaon

106.Vidya Dinker, Mangalore

107.Ajith Samuel, Bengaluru

108.Shewli Kumar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

109.Soma KP, PhD, Independent Researcher and MAKAAM NFT Member, Bombay

110.Brinda Adige, Women and Child Rights Activist, Bengaluru

111.Lalita Mukherjee

112.Anuradha Pati

113.Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai

114.Dr. Ranjitha Biswas

115.Vibhuti Patel, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

116.Anuradha Banerji, Independent Researcher, New Delhi

117.Ulka Mahajan, Sarvahara Janandolan, Raigad, Mumbai

118.Suneetha Achyutha, Anveshi Research Centre for Women, Hyderabad

119.Uma Kapari, NAPM

120.Usha Seethalakshmi, Independent Researcher, Hyderabad

121.Ashalatha.S, Feminist Activist, Hyderabad

122.Ajitha, PUDR, Delhi

123.Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, Health and Human Rights Activist, Bangalore

124.Ammu Abraham, Activist, Mumbai

125.Pushpesh Kumar, University of Hyderabad

126.Dynamic Action Collective, Thiruvalla

127.Laxmi Murthy, Journalist, Bangalore

128.Indira.N, Independent Researcher, Hyderabad

129. Sayantan Datta

130. Poushali

131. Dr.Payoshni Mitra, Athletes' Rights Activist, Kolkata

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