The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, causing a stir among LGBTQIA+ communities and supporters across the country. The Bill was passed through Lok Sabha on August 5, 2019.
Thawar Chand Gehlot, Minister of Social justice and Empowerment, tabled the bill at Rajya Sabha on November 20, citing the protection of transgender persons in the country. The Bill claims that it seeks to provide a mechanism for social, economic, and educational empowerment of transgender persons.
However, the very community it aims to benefit has been protesting against it and expressed anger and disappointment at Rajya Sabha’s decision to pass it.
While it does state equal provisions and no discrimination when it comes to education, employment, and access to opportunities, the Bill takes away the right to self-identify with invasive and humiliating procedure to determine one’s identify. This includes giving the District Magistrate or Collector the right to perform a medical examination on an individual to determine their gender.
Veteran actor and MP Jaya Bachchan addressed Rajya Sabha and said, "I have certain reservations. The certification itself is discrimination. It is the humiliation of a human being. From face and nature, they are not different from us. What is the need to humiliate them like this that you have to go and tell a committee that you are a transgender? Can't segregate them this way."
Since then, the medical examination clause was dismissed but transgender persons still need to be certified by government bodies.
It was back in 2014 that the Supreme Court had identified transgender as third gender, giving the transgender persons the right to self-identify. The gender assessment and certification in the current Bill violates this verdict.
In view of the ‘regressive’ bill, MP Tiruchi Siva from DMK party shared his concern at the Parliament and suggested sending the Bill to a Select Committee without rushing the process.
He said, “We can wait for another six weeks till the next session for such a crucial Bill’s scrutiny. A slow and steady legislation will not do any harm.”
However, the motion to consult a Select Committee was turned down with 70 members voting ‘no’ and 55 voting ‘yes’. As a result, the Bill was passed.
Additionally, several people pointed out that the Bill vaguely defines a transgender person as ‘as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth’. The current Bill is preceded by The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 and 2018.
One day after the Bill was passed, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies were out on the streets of Bengaluru at Mysore Bank Circle in black to protest against it. In Delhi and Mumbai too, urgent press conferences were held at Indian Women Press Corps and Press Club.
Similar protests took place earlier, on November 24, during the Pride Parade while the parliamentary debates on the Bill was underway.