Protestors gathered outside Chepauk stadium in Chennai said the Bill was more about ‘violating’ transgender persons than protecting them, and shouldn’t be passed in the Rajya Sabha.

Dont crush us Over 2000 protest in Chennai against regressive Trans Rights Bill
news Human Rights Friday, December 21, 2018 - 16:53

It wasn't just one or two trans rights groups that had gathered outside Chepauk stadium in Chennai, late on Friday morning. Thousands from across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry had found their way to Chepauk to agitate against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill passed by the Lok Sabha recently. Cries of ‘Don’t crush us!’ rent the air as they protested against the Bill, which jeopardises their dignity, identity and livelihoods in its present form. 

As a 200-member strong police battalion stood around the protest venue to ensure order, Jaya, a prominent trans rights activist from Chennai and member of LGBTQI+ rights advocacy NGO Sahodaran, spoke to TNM about the regressive nature of the bill and what she found most problematic. 

"The Bill does not touch upon any of the important issues such as reservation, education or job opportunities for the trans community. Instead of talking about beneficial changes for our livelihood, this Bill says that beggary is a crime. Where will our people go and how will they live?” she questioned. 

“There are trans people who want to leave their homes because are unable to express their gender identity and they are tortured by their families. This Bill tells trans people that they should not leave their homes until 18, even if we face abuse. The Bill says that if they leave their homes, then they should approach a care home or the courts. There is already a family of trans women, there is a jamaat system. This Bill wants to abolish opposes it and wants to abolish it. This Bill should not be passed in the Rajya Sabha. It should not become law, it should not receive the President’s assent," Jaya urged. 

Jaya is a trans rights activist and a member of the LGBTQ rights advocacy group Sahodaran 

On December 17, 2018, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was hurriedly passed in the Lok Sabha with 27 amendments. Shortly after, protests erupted on and outside social media by the trans community and their allies. TNM, in its detailed explainer, had spoken to several trans activists who shed light on the problematic nature of the bill. 

Refusal of right to self-identification (where trans persons could self-identify as male, female or third gender), lack of reservations, criminalisation of begging without providing alternative livelihood options, and problematic definition of ‘transgender’ are some of the biggest problems highlighted by agitators.

"This is more of a ‘transgender violation bill’, not ‘transgender protection bill’,” argued Shyam Balasubramanian, a Coimbatore-based trans man who attended the protest in Chennai. “It goes completely against the 2014 NALSA judgement which gave people the right to self-identify their gender. No surgery should be mandatory for people to officially identify as a man, woman or a transgender. This bill forces such a condition on us. We will have to strip in front of a screening committee if we want an ID card which mentions our felt gender. We will initially be provided with a transgender ID card and only after showing proof of surgery or hormone treatment will they be given IDs based on their gender. This is serious discrimination,” he added.

Shyam Balarubramanian, a Coimbatore based trans man who attend the protest in Chennai on Friday 

Shyam also stated that several trans persons are subjected to 'corrective' rape and abuse (especially for trans masculine people or those assigned female gender at birth) when they reveal their felt gender. And for the government to deny them the right to leave their abusive homes even after the age of 18 is plain cruel, he insisted. “Punishment for sexual violence against trans people is very less compared to cisgender people. This is extreme discrimination,” he said.

"You deny us education, jobs, basic rights and don't grant us reservations. How do you expect us to come forward then? This is a grand plan to keep the transgender community under tyranny," he said.

(With inputs from Manasa Rao) 

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