The bill claims to protect the rights of trans persons, but the community alleges that it actually criminalises them.

Rollback Transgender Persons Bill Protests in Ktaka as anger rises across IndiaCourtesy: Christy Raj
news Protests Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 18:45

What do you do with a bill that claims it is going to protect transgender persons, but has no word on how members of the marginalised community are going to get employment? What if in addition to being silent on jobs, the bill goes on to criminalise the only means of livelihood for a majority of the community – begging? This is not hypothetical – this is exactly what is happening with the centre’s draft legislation, ironically named the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016.

And the transgender community across the country is angry, because despite them telling the government and a standing committee that the bill does nothing for them, and will in fact take away the rights that the 2014 NALSA judgment by the Supreme Court guarantees the community – the central government has done nothing.

Members of the trans community are planning protests across the country to denounce the bill in its current form and demand a rollback, and on Thursday, activists in Karnataka staged a demonstration at Mysore Bank circle. Organised by the Karnataka Transgender Samithi (KTS), the agitators demanded that the central government rollback the bill immediately.

“There are no reservation in government jobs. What do we do with the bill then? How will we develop? We have been fighting for these basic right for years,” Sowmya, a member of the KTS told TNM.

Read: Dear President and PM of India, please euthanize us: A transgender woman’s open letter 

Speaking about the lacunas in the current bill, “The Bill disregards many progressive reforms of NALSA judgement. NALSA judgement had medical insurance outlined for transgender persons,” Christy Raj, another member of KTS said.

At a press conference ahead of the protests, the collective called the bill draconian and violative, and demanded that the bill be immediately rolled back as it is in contravention of the NALSA judgement. Primarily they objected to the unclear definition of transgender persons.

The bill defines transgender person as “neither wholly female nor wholly male; or a combination of female or male; or neither female nor male.” This definition has been criticised by trans activists across the country, who say that the government is trying to impose their fantasy of who a transgender person is on the community.

“For  many years we are fighting human rights violations against transgender persons. Many activists including women, Dalit activists have stood by us during this time. The Bill came about as a good thing that central government brought out, but this is just eyewash,” Sowmya said.

 

Another member, Umi said that the community has been demanding specific wards in government hospitals and health insurance. “Instead the Bill proposes HIV Kendra. People are seeing us through the lens of HIV. It will only encourage stigma against transgender persons. We have other health issues like blood pressure, sugar too,” they said.  

Other than this, the KTS demanded that separate commissions for the welfare of the community be set up at the central, state and district level. They also demanded the right to marriage, adoption, inheritance and right to recognise the community as their family of choice.

They also called for a law against discrimination similar to the SC/ ST(Prevention of Atrocities) Act and also for the amendment of criminal laws to protect them against domestic and sexual violence.

The Karnataka government had also proposed a ‘Transgender Policy’ which has been approved by the Cabinet but the exact provisions are yet to be made public.

Deeptha Rao, a lawyer working with the transgender community said, “Although the provisions are not public, the premise is problematic as it borrows the provisions of mandatory screening process from the 2016 BIll.”

Activists are now set to stage demonstrations on December 17 in Delhi on the road leading to the Parliament, protesting against the controversial Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016.

The Winter Session of Parliament will start on December 15 and the Bill is set to be taken up during this session.

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