Gender, address dilemma for Assam’s third sex in draft NRC
At least one community living in Assam finds itself excluded en masse from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens — transgender-identified people. The draft in all excluded four million people.
A 26-year-old transgender woman who lives in Hojai district with her hijra family said her name is in the NRC draft, but it is in the male name and gender assigned to her at birth. What’s more, she is shown as being part of the district in which she does not live anymore.
The transgender woman, who did not wish to be named, was born in Dhubri district to a Muslim family and left home as a teenager. However, her father submitted her documents during the recent NRC updation drive.
While the claims, objections and corrections procedure regarding the final NRC draft, released on July 30, will begin in August, there is no plan in place for transgender persons, whose chosen name and gender remain excluded from the draft.
The claims/objections procedure stipulates that applicants are only allowed to submit their claims at the seva kendras (service centre) where their application was filed.
Founder of All Assam Transgender Association Swati Bidhan Baruah said, “The government is neglecting the transgender population, which leaves them vulnerable to being deported or sent to a detention centre. As per Nalsa judgment, the community has the right to claim their transgender identity, and the government must take this into account. How will transgender persons who’ve been disowned by their birth families apply for NRC list when they don’t have a single document to prove their citizenship?”
In 2014, the Supreme Court delivered the National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India verdict, which directed the state to recognise the gender identity of transgender persons and ensure that they are given entitlements and benefits. Violence, non-acceptance by family, and hijra gharanas are some of the important factors that propel them to migrate, both within the state, and outside it.
Another 26-year-old transgender woman from Hojai district, whose birth family lives in Silchar district, does not know if her name is in the list. Even if it is, there is a more pressing concern. “I don’t have any document that proves that the person in the NRC is the same as me. My concern also is that no one from my village should get to know that I am a transgender person,” she says, asking not to be identified by name. She has a PAN card in her chosen name and gender, and has applied for an Aadhaar card.
Ashish Kumar Dey, secretary of Gharoa, a non-profit organisation that works on HIV/AIDS prevention in central Assam, said: “They need the same legacy documents, like their birth certificate, father’s ancestry documents. How will they procure these documents? Secondly, the change in gender and name has to be acknowledged by the NRC.”
As per the 2011 census, there are 11,374 transgender persons in Assam, but the number is likely much more, say activists.
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