Transgender Bill: remove drawbacks

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha this week, is the first legislative effort in the country to empower the members of the community by providing them a separate gender identity and securing their rights. Since they have always been victims of prejudice and discrimination and have been forced to live outside the society as non-citizens, a law that defines their rights and gives them protection is welcome. But the bill in its present form has disappointed the community and falls short of the rights recognised as their natural and legal rights by the historic Supreme Court judgment of 2014. The judgement had affirmed the right of the members of the community to equality in society, sought to give a definition of transgender status and made recommendations for their social and economic development and integration in society. 

The biggest drawback of the bill is that it does not recognise the right to self-definition of the transgender person, as the judgement had done. The judgement had laid down that an individual’s gender status - male, female or transgender — was to be defined by that person only, without being influenced or pressured by family or society. But the bill vests the power to certify an individual as transgender in a district screening committee. Such external certification will often be wrong and may be made by people who are incompetent or prejudiced. The bill also prescribes a gender reassignment surgery for those who wish to transition from one gender identity to another. The judgement had specifically banned this. The bill gives the state the power to decide and control the gender identity of a person, and this is a defect that goes to its heart.  

There are other issues also. The bill bars transgender children from being separated from their families, ignoring the fact that most transgenders suffer discrimination and harassment within the families and often find shelter and equal treatment within their communities. It criminalises begging by transgenders, which is the only means of livelihood for most of them, even as it is not a crime for others. The court had proposed the grant of backward class status to the community, with its attendant educational and employment benefits, but the bill has not done that. The draft is a revised version of the bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016 but the government has not accepted many of the changes which were suggested to improve it. It should remove its drawbacks and make the bill more friendly and useful to the community when it is introduced in the Rajya Sabha. 

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Transgender Bill: remove drawbacks

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