The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, which passed the Rajya Sabha this April, is garnering support from various pro-sexual minority organisations as it awaits clearance from Lok Sabha.
Human Rights activists from V-CAN Network, Tamil Nadu, Sangama and Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum released a report marking the progress of transgender rights in India on 16th July, in New Delhi.
As the monsoon session of Lok Sabha is soon to begin, they appealed to Parliamentarians to ensure speedy passage and implementation of the private bill, which seeks to guarantee “reservation in education and jobs, financial aid and social inclusion” for the sexual minority.
The discussion comes in the wake of the Supreme Court directive last year which recognised transgenders as the third sex but did not provide ground-level assistance.
Sheetal, a transgender associated with V-CAN, emphasised that even after the Supreme Court judgment in their favor, obtaining a voter ID and ration card remains an issue due to the slow and uneven implementation of the directive by the government.
The bill promises more hope by ensuring social inclusion and safety by envisaging transgender courts, a separate one-stop crisis helpline for transgender, pension and unemployment allowances, two percent reservation in government jobs, welfare boards at the Centre and state level, a prohibition of all forms of discrimination in employment, and the creation of short stay homes.
Rajesh Umadevi, Director of Sangama, maintains a skeptic view regarding the ruling BJP government. He fears that the party may look at the issue as a way to further its religious agenda. Right-wing ideologists, he claimed, would try to fit transgender in traditional roles of ‘Kinnars’ and ‘Hijras’, which would reinforce the mythological narrative of transgenders as social pariahs.
Touching upon the current state of the transgender community, Umadevi, added, “It is also a reality that the former BJP-ruled Karnataka government amended the Karnataka Police Act to introduce Setion 36(A) while the entire opposition protested. The draconian law scrutinises the movement of transgenders by maintaining a registrar in police station, which requires each transgender to register them. In case of child abduction from a locality, transgenders will be arrested without bail.”
Furthermore, the issues of gays, lesbians and bisexuals remain neglected by the government without any respite in near future. Veena, transgender activist from Karnataka, said, “ In our case, we dress as women and are willing to change our entire identity. However, the lack of differentiation in case of homosexuals threatens the right wing’’ black and white perception of sexuality.”
Some activists said that while the U.S. Defense Department has begun paving the way for the removal of the prohibition on transgenders serving in the U.S. Army, the Indian government is struggling to pass a law ensuring social inclusion of the transgender community.
The effectiveness of the bill, activists maintain, depends on ensuring stable pro-transgender policies, that do not change with the ruling party.