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.
. @Manekagandhibjp We are #NotOtherOnes or your pets. We are equally human, equal citizens. APOLOGIZE to the entire transgender community NOW, for your extremely derogatory, insenstive reference and gesture. This does not behove a Cabinet Minister! Appalled, Anguished, Ashamed ! pic.twitter.com/v9uPwm8VEjâ Meera Sanghamitra (@meeracomposes) July 27, 2018
The Lok Sabha passed the Bill, despite several reservations from stakeholders like sex workers and transgender rights activists.
In response to Manekaâs remarks, the Coalition on an Inclusive Approach to the Anti-Trafficking Bill 2018, comprising activists, journalists, lawyers, organisations and individuals working for womenâs rights, children, sex workers, the trans community and labour, wrote a memorandum to the minister. They demanded that Maneka withdraw her âunparliamentarily and crude remarks about women and transgender individualsâ.
Hereâs the text of the memorandum, reproduced in full.
29th July 2018
Ms. Maneka Gandhi,
Ministry for Women and Child Development,
Government of India,
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. Tharoorâs comprehensively argued critique you suggestively and contemptuously stated, âHere 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 âother onesâ, laughing and making gestures which clearly conveyed deep disrespect to the transgender personsâ 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 âwill of the peopleâ, 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 âother onesâ and address their concerns vis-Ă -vis the Anti-Trafficking Bill, 2018.
Your assertion also that it is time for the government to stop âtoleratingâ 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 âvictimsâ 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 âpromotersâ 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.
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 Womenâs 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 â South India Federation of Trade Unions, Bengaluru
24. KOOGU âKarnataka Garment Workers Union, Bengaluru
25. MAKAAYU â Manegelasa Karmikara Union, Bengaluru
26. AKKKU â Akhila Karnataka Kattada Karmikara Union, Bengaluru
27. AIKYATA â 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 Peoplesâ 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 â
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 DâSouza, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
77. Madhu Bhushan, womenâs rights activist, Bengaluru
78. Shantha Bai, womenâs rights activist, Bengaluru
79. Mamtha M, womenâs rights activist, Bengaluru
80. Shakun Mohini, womenâs rights activist, Bengaluru
81. Kalpana Chakravarty womenâs 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
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
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
131. Dr.Payoshni Mitra, Athletes' Rights Activist, Kolkata