PIL seeks transgenders' safety from sexual offences

PIL in Supreme Court seeks equal protection of law to transgenders in sexual offence cases

The Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. Credit: PTI File Photo

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Union government to make modification and interpretation of sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to deal with sexual assaults against transgenders, transsexuals and eunuchs.

The petition filed by lawyer Reepak Kansal asked the court to direct the Union government to make the sexual harassment mechanisms gender-neutral.

"In cases of sexual assault of transgender, the law enforcement agencies are often at loss to ascertain applicable provisions of law as there is no provision in Indian Penal Code," he contended.

"In spite of declaring transgender people to be a 'third gender' by this court, there is no provision/section in the Indian Penal Code which may protect the third gender from the sexual assault by male/ female or another transgender," it said.

He asked the court to frame guidelines to protect the fundamental rights of the third gender by giving them equal protection before law till such time the law is passed to protect them from sexual assault etc.

He said Section 354 A of IPC should be declared as ultra vires of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution to the extent that they are interpreted to exclude victims of sexual harassment who are transgenders.

The petitioner cited the path-breaking judgement by the Supreme Court in 2014 in the matter of National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India granting recognition to the transgenders as the third gender, falling under the ambit of Article 14 of the Constitution.

"The petitioner is filing this petition...with respect to equal protection of law to the third gender/transgender from the sexual assault /offences as there is no provision/section in the IPC which may protect the third gender from the sexual assault by male/ female or another transgender, therefore, anti-discrimination laws are needed to safeguard the basic citizenship rights of transgender persons," the plea said.

The plea, which may come up for hearing in few days, has sought a direction to the Centre to "make appropriate modification/ interpretation of sections/ provisions of IPC dealing with sexual assault to include transgender/ transsexuals/ kinnar and eunuchs in the definitions accordingly".

He said the court should also direct the Union government to pass an Anti-Discrimination Bill that penalises discrimination and harassment based on gender.

The plea urged the top court "to issue an appropriate order... directing the respondents to pass an Anti-Discrimination Bill that penalises discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender".

It also sought a direction to the Centre to adopt and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being a signatory of it.

(With inputs from PTI)