Many activists now want the government to junk the bill and revert to a previous legislation by DMK member Tiruchi Siva, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha last year.(PTI)
Many activists now want the government to junk the bill and revert to a previous legislation by DMK member Tiruchi Siva, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha last year.(PTI)

Activists in India are up in arms over the new transgender bill. Here’s why

Activists and lawyers have complained that the transgender rights bill encourages corruption, is full of provisions open to abuse and directly opposes the spirit of a 2014 Supreme Court verdict that recognized the third gender and called for a raft of rights and measures for transpersons.
By Dhrubo Jyoti | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 05, 2016 12:57 PM IST

When social justice minister Thaawarchand Gehlot tabled the transgender rights bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, it appeared to be the glorious culmination of a long struggle by one of India’s most marginalised communities.

But within hours, as copies of the draft bill was circulated, it became clear that the legislation diluted several key provisions of previous versions of the bill, while injecting harmful new language that could undermine protections extended for transpersons in India.

Activists and lawyers complained the bill encouraged corruption, was full of provisions open to abuse and directly opposed the spirit of a 2014 Supreme Court verdict that recognized the third gender and called for a raft of rights and measures for transpersons.

“It is difficult to be calm and hopeful reading the bill. It stinks of callousness and ignorance,” said activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli.

“By the looks of it, the transgender community and allies may have to gear up for a long struggle.”

Many now want the government to revert to what they call a better bill on the issue by DMK member Tiruchi Siva, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha last year.

Definitions Used

The first chapter of the bill seeks to define a transgender and lays down three main criteria — neither wholly female nor wholly male; a combination of female or male; neither female nor male.

This, activists say, insults transgender people and propagates the bias that trans identities aren’t “whole” by themselves.

“The LS bill is perpetuating the very violence/discrimination it seeks to address,” said Nadika N, a non-binary writer from Chennai.

The provision might stop many from identifying as just men or women — contradicting the right to self-determination of identity guaranteed by the Supreme Court. “What is a complete male?” asked Delhi-based lawyer Danish Sheikh.

Moreover, throughout the bill, the pronoun used is “his” – a slip that many have objected to.

“If this provision is interpreted literally, it leaves most trans people out of its ambit,” said Karthik Bittu Kondaiah, a professor at the University of Hyderabad.

Activists say the new provisions of the bill would leave most transpeople out of the ambit of the legislation. (Raj k Raj/Hindustan Times)
Activists say the new provisions of the bill would leave most transpeople out of the ambit of the legislation. (Raj k Raj/Hindustan Times)

Absence of Key Provisions

The top court had called for reservations as other backward classes for transgender people but that provision is wholly missing from the bill.

Safeguards in education and employment are also vaguely lumped together under a welfare provision.

“Employment and education discrimination are mentioned in one liners with nothing remotely concrete,” Kondaiah said.

What’s worse is the lack of clarity of who to approach in case of harassment or discrimination. “There is not even a single mention of what justice a trans person can seek,” said Nadika.

Chapter 8 of the bill lists out four types of offences ranging from denial of right to public spaces to sexual assault, but says the punishment cannot be more than 2 years. This is discriminatory, activists say.

“The bill has no definition of discrimination. It is unclear if a transperson gets fired, who they should approach to file a complaint,” said Sheikh.

The bill does not also mention police violence. “This is a huge gap since so many transgender persons face police violence,” said Bengaluru-based lawyer Gowthaman Ranganathan.

Contrary to Supreme Court Guidelines

One of the highlights of the 2014 apex court verdict was the right to self-determination of identity.

This meant that people could identify their own genders without having to seek certification and was meant to do away with years of oppression and torture at the hands of state actors who refused to recognize transpeople.

It also aimed at smoother delivery of government benefits — such as ration cards — to transgender people without the bottleneck of gender certification.

But the new bill appears to replace that with an elaborate structure comprising the district magistrate and a screening committee — that will have doctors on board — to be constituted by an “appropriate government”.

This has infuriated activists, who say the provision encourages gatekeeping of identities, will lead to corruption and favouritism as many will be forced to compete for meagre resources.

“Who on earth is “appropriate government” and why should it usurp individual autonomy and right to self-identify gender?”Mogli asked.

Many fear that the elaborate structure will intimidate people and the thousands of transgender people who have sought gender certificates from smaller districts in the past two years may be stranded.

“The gatekeeping will exclude many transpeople, including those who haven’t yet or don’t want to undergo operations,” said L Ramakrishnan from the NGO Saathii in Chennai.

“The Supreme Court said transgender is not about body parts. This is a draconian provision open to abuse.”

Harmful Provisions

Two provisions have angered activists in particular.

The first constitutes “enticing” transgender people to beg as an offense. This, activists, say will lead to police targeting working-class transgenders as many of them are involved in beggary and could even be used to jail Hijra gurus or leaders.

“What other employment opportunities are being created? We have seen in Bangalore how the prohibition of beggary act is used to criminalise trans women,” said Bengaluru-based Gee Imaan Semmalar.

The second provision is a stipulation that transgender people cannot be separated from their families, a tricky ask in a world where the family or home is the source of discrimination, violence and denial of identity for a transperson, activists say.

The provision makes it impossible for people to be removed from abusive families without moving court.

“The ministry has clearly not understood that for most trans people, families are sites of violence and many leave home in their adolescence due to torture,” said Semmalar.

Road Ahead

Activists have now reached out to the government and demanded a radical overhaul of the bill and a return of several provisions of Siva’s bill.

The new legislation negates much of the progress made since 2014 and may not have any effect once it becomes law, lawyers say.

“The terms, phrasing and wording of the bill — very ignorant, ill-informed and inadequate — are things to worry about, and may hurt the transgender community more than it helps,” said Nadika.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
CRPF personnel being vaccinated against Covid-19, at Hindu Rao Hospital in New Delhi. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
CRPF personnel being vaccinated against Covid-19, at Hindu Rao Hospital in New Delhi. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

Paid shots from March 1 as India expands Covid-19 vaccine drive

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 05:23 AM IST
The decision marks a significant opening up of the vaccination drive, with the roll-out for the general public being moved up from the previously estimated window of mid-March, and comes at a time when the country is on the brink of a second wave of infections.
Close
Digital media includes intermediaries such as Twitter and Facebook, and publishers of news and current affairs content. It also includes so-called curators of such content.(Reuters file photo)
Digital media includes intermediaries such as Twitter and Facebook, and publishers of news and current affairs content. It also includes so-called curators of such content.(Reuters file photo)

Govt rules for online media to include takedown power

By Deeksha Bhardwaj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 05:05 AM IST
Digital media, as defined in a document that lays out the government’s framework to regulate online content, will cover digitised content that can be transmitted over the internet or computer networks.
Close
Referring to the 2019 decision to scrap the special status of J&K, Pujani said: “We reiterate that the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral and inalienable part of India."(AP file photo)
Referring to the 2019 decision to scrap the special status of J&K, Pujani said: “We reiterate that the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral and inalienable part of India."(AP file photo)

‘Patron of terror’: India hits out at Pakistan at United Nations

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:48 AM IST
India’s “right of reply” to the Pakistani minister’s speech was delivered by Seema Pujani, second secretary in the permanent mission to the UN. She described Pakistan’s continued misuse of various platforms for “baseless and malicious propaganda against India is not new”.
Close
The government hopes to cover an estimated 10.5 million paddy growers this year, against last year’s 10.2 million.(PTI file photo)
The government hopes to cover an estimated 10.5 million paddy growers this year, against last year’s 10.2 million.(PTI file photo)

2020-21 likely to see record paddy procurement

By Zia Haq
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:36 AM IST
Paddy is the main summer staple that drives the incomes of millions of farmers. The ministry’s official figures show the government’s total procurement of summer paddy has touched 65.8 million tonnes until January 22 against the purchase of 56.5 million tonnes in the corresponding part of last year.
Close
Javadekar said that further steps for administrative work in the Union territory will be taken soon.(ANI Photo)
Javadekar said that further steps for administrative work in the Union territory will be taken soon.(ANI Photo)

Union Cabinet approves L-G proposal for President’s rule in Puducherry

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:25 AM IST
L-G Tamilisai Soundararajan recommended imposition of President’s Rule in Puducherry after the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies did not stake claim to form the government
Close
A view of Motera Stadium, the world's biggest cricket stadium. (ANI Photo)
A view of Motera Stadium, the world's biggest cricket stadium. (ANI Photo)

BJP, Congress trade barbs over Motera stadium renaming

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:21 AM IST
At a cabinet briefing, union ministers Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad also hit out at the Congress and wondered if the top Congress leaders such as Sonia or Rahul Gandhi have even bothered to visit the world’s tallest statue, that of Sardar Patel, at Kevadiya in Gujarat.
Close
Facebook said it cannot be compelled by any committee of the parliament or the state assembly to participate in an inquiry and that its move to appear before a parliamentary panel on information technology last month was “a business decision”.(Reuters Photo)
Facebook said it cannot be compelled by any committee of the parliament or the state assembly to participate in an inquiry and that its move to appear before a parliamentary panel on information technology last month was “a business decision”.(Reuters Photo)

Facebook now says it’s not obligated to appear before Parliamentary panels

By Utkarsh Anand, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:05 AM IST
The exchange and Facebook’s contention that it could choose not to appear before any institution, as long as it follows the laws, is interesting because it comes at a time when the Union government is readying a framework to regulate social media and digital media companies.
Close
Shantanu Muluk, a climate activist, arrives at National Cyber Forensic Lab for an investigation, in New Delhi, India, February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(REUTERS)
Shantanu Muluk, a climate activist, arrives at National Cyber Forensic Lab for an investigation, in New Delhi, India, February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(REUTERS)

Toolkit case: Shantanu Muluk’s bail plea hearing today

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:40 AM IST
Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana, who granted bail to Ravi on Tuesday, posted Muluk’s bail application for arguments on Thursday. Muluk had got transit bail from the Bombay high court on February 16 for a period of 10 days.
Close
In two parallel investigations, the CBI is also probing a multi-crore coal smuggling scam. (FILE PHOTO)
In two parallel investigations, the CBI is also probing a multi-crore coal smuggling scam. (FILE PHOTO)

CBI names TMC youth leader in charge-sheet of cattle smuggling case

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:17 AM IST
  • Earlier this month, CBI in the first charge-sheet in the case had named BSF Commandant Satish Kumar and Murshidabad-based businessman Enamul Haque along with five others for their alleged involvement in cattle smuggling across the India-Bangladesh border.
Close
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said that even under the existing system, Magistrates are made witnesses during trial as they record dying declaration and hold test identification parade. (HT PHOTO).
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said that even under the existing system, Magistrates are made witnesses during trial as they record dying declaration and hold test identification parade. (HT PHOTO).

Top court proposes cadre of magistrates to fill gaps in police investigation

By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:55 PM IST
  • The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat apart from Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde were of the view that magistrates should play a more “intrusive” role in investigation.
Close
Police said the accused surrendered after killing the woman.(Representational Photo/Getty Images)
Police said the accused surrendered after killing the woman.(Representational Photo/Getty Images)

College student in Andhra Pradesh killed for rejecting marriage proposal

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:44 PM IST
  • Police said the accused and the victim were in a relationship for a year, but of late she had been avoiding him.
Close
Currently, the Railways have operationalized almost 65 per cent of Mail/Express trains and over 90 per cent of suburban services as compared to pre lockdown times. (HT PHOTO).
Currently, the Railways have operationalized almost 65 per cent of Mail/Express trains and over 90 per cent of suburban services as compared to pre lockdown times. (HT PHOTO).

Higher fares for short distance trains to discourage needless travel: Railways

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:31 PM IST
  • The national carrier at present is operating only special passenger trains since the curbs on lockdown were eased. Regular passenger trains have been suspended since March 25, 2020.
Close
When asked about the new strains of the virus that have been found in several parts of the country, Guleria said authorities are closely monitoring the situation.(ANI photo)
When asked about the new strains of the virus that have been found in several parts of the country, Guleria said authorities are closely monitoring the situation.(ANI photo)

New strains not more infectious, need to aggressively monitor situation: Guleria

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:28 PM IST
"Currently we have vaccines with efficacy of 70 per cent , 80 per cent, 90 per cent so even if there is slight fall in efficacy they will still be effective in preventing the virus from further spreading," Guleria told in an interview to ANI.
Close
Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel recovered 2 Improvised Explosive Devices (1 pressure cooker and 1 pipe type) placed in a series manner near Dhanora, Narayanpur on Tuesday. (ANI photo)
Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel recovered 2 Improvised Explosive Devices (1 pressure cooker and 1 pipe type) placed in a series manner near Dhanora, Narayanpur on Tuesday. (ANI photo)

2 security personnel killed in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur in Maoist attacks

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:16 PM IST
  • Both the casualties took place due to IED blasts.
Close
Motera Stadium is the world's largest cricket stadium. (PTI)
Motera Stadium is the world's largest cricket stadium. (PTI)

Govt clarifies on controversy over Motera stadium being named after PM

Written by Prashasti Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:22 PM IST
Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera, inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind, is part of a larger complex, named 'Sardar Patel Sports Complex'.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP