India Transgender people are on a human rights rollercoaster ride chugging for years to heights of euphoric empowerment, then flying helter-skelter to the depths of despair. Some are angry, some think its the end of an era and some have given up in despair with the passage of the latest version of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill.
At the pinnacle of success…
In 2014 India’s Supreme court issued a much-anticipated ruling regarding “National Legal Services Authority(NLSA) v. Union of India” mandating gender self-identification among other life-saving findings. The SC also required that the national and state lawmakers codify the decision in law. Read the court ruling in full here.
Crashing to the depths of despair…
On Monday, the Lok Sabha (lower house) passed The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018. This bill requires the sterilization of transgender persons as a prerequisite for legal binary gender recognition, criminalizes the primary source of income and destroys India’s transgender communities.
Most egregiously this eugenics-based bill is antithetical to the ruling of the Supreme Court and is in direct conflict with the Yogyartaka Principles and India’s constitution which the NLSA ruling was based on.
While the bill partially rectified the extremely problematic definition of transgender and allowed for a third gender option it also:
Defined family as blood. Most of India’s transgender people are rejected by blood relatives and form families, living together and caring for one another. Adoption and existence of these families would be further delegitimized by the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018.
It also would provide for the same six-month to two-year sentence for all offenses against transgender people. In some cases, this could be a significantly lighter sentence than when the same crime is committed against others, including discriminated groups such as cis-gendered women, under the general criminal law. In addition, the identification of “beggary” as an offense under the Bill is problematic since for many transgender people in the country, it remains one of the limited livelihood opportunities.- ICJ – International Commission of Jurists
No legal protection against rape and sexual assault
As Congress MP Shashi Tharoor stated in a comprehensive thread on Twitter, “many offences under the IPC such as rape, stalking, sexual harassment etc are applicable only if the victim is female.”
In August 2017, a Pune court allowed four men accused of raping a 19-year-old trans woman to be let out on bail, as Sections 375 and 376 of the IPC, which deal with rape, explicitly state that a man only commits rape against a woman and make no mention of people of other genders.
The new Bill passed in the Lok Sabha does not fill that legal gap by laying out any much-needed, specific provisions or punishments to deal with the rampant issue of sexual violence, rape and assault of trans people. The Bill only states whoever “harms or injures or endangers the life, safety, health, or well-being, whether mental or physical, of a transgender person or tends to do acts including causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years and with fine.”
Less than an hour after the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill by the Lok Sabha, Grace Banu, a trans activist from Tamil Nadu and the founder of the Trans Rights Now Collective, took to Facebook that stated that Tuesday was a “black day for us”.
According to several activists, out of the many changes suggested to an earlier draft of the Bill, a total of 27 amendments have been accepted, but none that were advanced by the transgender community.
“Right from the beginning, we have been opposing this Transgender Persons Protection Bill, 2016. Trans people are opposed to this Bill, it is totally against the community. It criminalizes the community and is meant to kill the trans people,” Grace says, speaking to The News Minute.