Why the new law on rights of transgenders fails to take into account their lived realities

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Published: December 19, 2018 12:38:21 AM

The law talks of a National Commission for Transgenders, but has nothing on membership structure, objectives, grievance redressal and other features of the commission.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2016 following which it was sent to a parliamentary standing committee that had made many progressive changes.

On many counts, the Transgender Persons Bill falls short of being a progressive piece of legislation. The Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2016 following which it was sent to a parliamentary standing committee that had made many progressive changes. The final draft, however, retained only some of the recommendations and added a host of new problems. For instance, the definition of transgender persons includes intersex persons as well—persons with several variations of sex characteristics, including gonads, chromosomes, etc. The problem is that intersex persons can be comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth but the new law forces them to be clubbed with transgender persons. The law talks of a National Commission for Transgenders, but has nothing on membership structure, objectives, grievance redressal and other features of the commission.

It also completely negates the concept of self-identification as the touchstone of determining transgender identity, and instead relies on a physical examination for conferring legally recognised transgender identity to an individual. This provision could be interpreted to deny preoperative trans-persons and those who can’t afford a gender reassignment surgery trans-status, thus breaching the rights the Bill should have protected. Also, the new law does little to address the inherent assumption of a binary structure as far as gender is concerned, when it comes to laws to punish rape, sexual assault, stalking, etc. Further, providing children expressing trans identity safe spaces, and making knowledge and information about the community mainstream via the school curriculum to further understanding and empathy have been ignored in the new law. It also criminalises begging by trans-persons, indifferent to the reality of most transgender persons who beg not out of choice but because they are less likely to get employed than cis-gendered persons. The Bill thus risks becoming mere lip service.

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