Complaint against DMRC for incorrect signage regarding transgender persons
Transgender activist Dr Aqsa Sheikh has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) over misrepresentation of the transgender community at DMRC’s new toilets for transgender persons.
“We submit that DMRC has violated Section 8(3) of the Act [Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 ] under which the appropriate government shall formulate welfare schemes and programmes which are transgender sensitive, non-stigmatising and non-discriminatory,” the complaint read.
Last month, DMRC had said in a statement that it has made the provision of allowing transgender persons access to separate toilets at its stations, which were hitherto meant for the disabled only.
Dr Sheikh welcomed the DMRC’s initiative but also points out four mistakes made by the DMRC in her complaint. First is that the bilingual signages have used the word ‘ubhaylingi’ in Hindi, which means intersex persons, and not transgender persons. “Since the press release mentions that these signages have been installed in 347 toilets across Delhi Metro stations, there is a huge amplification and spread of incorrect terms. While it is known that the Hindi Translation [of the term] in the Transgender Persons Act is ubhaylingi, the community prefers that the word should be used for intersex persons and not transgender persons,” the complaint read. Dr Sheikh requested immediate removal of all such bilingual signages.
Second, the symbol used for transgender persons is an image of half male and half female. The complaint said that this will further the wrong assumption that transgender persons are half male and half female. This violates the order released by chief secretary, NCT of Delhi, in February which mandated the usage of the symbol ‘T’ for transgender persons.
The complaint further pointed out that the DMRC press releases uses the term ‘transgenders’, instead of transgender persons. “Transgender is not a noun in the English language but an adjective, a term used to describe a person, it is not the person itself. Hence, the right usage of the term is ‘transgender person’ instead of ‘transgender’,” Dr Sheikh said in her complaint.
The complaint said that these signages fail to provide a “safe space and prevent the gender discrimination” that DMRC intended. “These actions reinforce stereotypes and assumptions about transgender persons,” it added.
Dr Sheikh also highlighted that the DMRC has not appointed a complaint officer to deal with the complaints relating to the violations of the provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019.
“They (DMRC) have not consulted anyone from the community. They should involve the community when they are doing something for the community. Now that we have pointed out the mistakes, the good thing to do is bring the change into all the 347 metro stations,” Dr Aqsa Sheikh told HT. She is the first transwoman in India to be appointed as the nodal officer of a Covid-19 vaccination centre.
Anuj Dayal, executive director of corporate communication at DMRC, said in a statement that they are open to replacing the problematic signages and issued clarifications for all the complaints raised by Dr Sheikh. “DMRC is always alive and open to such feedback and will continue to improvise upon its services without hurting the sensibilities of anyone-- advertently or inadvertently,” he added.
Transgender and human rights activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli said this goes well beyond DMRC. “Languages have been heavily patriarchal, classist, trans-misogynist at so many levels and there is no equivalent word for ‘transgender persons’ in any of the Indian languages,” she said. Vyjayanti asked why the government has not coined a term for the community when they could come up with a Hindi translation for mobile phones.