The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 was heralded as another example of how despite its seemingly good intentions, it avoids engaging with the actual stakeholders who are impacted by the law, and we end up with a law which causes more harm than good.

Read more about the History and Flaws of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018

On the 17th of December, 2018, amid repeated stalling of work due to the Rafale Supreme Court order controversy, the Government introduced the Trans Bill 2018 for amendments and voting. The Bill, which was Item 12 on the day’s proceedings was introduced in the third quarter for deliberation and voting.

Dr Sashi Tharoor, the first person to speak on the bill, emphasised that while he strongly supported INC’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary Probe on the Rafale deal which was leading to a disruption of the proceeding, but he also appreciated the object of the Bill, hence considered it important to point out how extremely flawed the current version of the Bill was. Dr Tharoor discussed India’s rich history and its involvement with vibrant transgender community till the British had imposed their “Victorian ideas of morality” on India, and introduced laws like the Criminal Tribes Act. Apart from introducing 20 odd amendments to the Bill, Dr Tharoor also pointed out that while the British had moved on and adopted progressive laws like the UK Gender Recognition Act, we were still stuck with archaic concepts.

The next speaker was Mr.Bhartruhari Mahtab, of Biju Janata Dal, who among other things, drew the attention of the house to the important fact that several criminal laws and civil laws recognise two categories of gender, that is, man and woman. These laws include Indian Penal Code; 1860, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005; Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and many more which contain some gender-specific provisions. This Bill recognises a third gender but does not clarify how the laws mentioned laws apply to transgender persons. Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar of AITMC, Supriya Sule of NCP, and Badaruddoza Khan of CPI(M) were the only other party representative, to make their Party’s objections against the current draft of the bill vocal. Supriya Sule pointed out how the Bill did not take into account the requirement of infrastructure and special helplines which were vital for the benefit of the community, whereas Dr Dastidar pointed out that the Bill does not understand or take into account that gender dysphoria leads to lots of external manifestations including depressing, suicidal tendencies, social anxiety etc, which the Bill doesn’t remedy. Ms Sule later took to Twitter to demand that the Bill be redrafted to take into account the intricacies of the NALSA Judgement.

 

 

Though the amendments raised by Dr Tharoor were not accepted, he later took to Twitter to explain each of his amendments and why the Bill is flawed without the same. He stated that the flaws in the Bill could have been easily fixed by amendments if the Government had genuine concerns about Trans Right.

Post voting on proposed amendments, the CPI (M) representative, Badaruddoza Khan, supported the opinion of some of the other Opposition parties in trying to convince Mr Thawar Chand Gehlot, the Minister of Social Justice and Livelihood to recall the Bill for further study and deliberations, the Minister introduced the Bill for voting, and the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot had stated that the Bill was sent to the standing committee and the government had accepted 27 amendments and hence he believed that the Bill was complete and there was no need for more discussion.

Following the passing of the Bill, the Telangana Hijra-Trans Samiti stated that the Bill passed today should be more appropriately retitled the Transgender Persons (Violation of Rights) Bill since it violates more rights than it protects. They pointed out that version of the Bill passed today upholds criminalization of trans people for organized begging, while denying any opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, etc. via reservation. It upholds lighter consequences for discrimination and assault on trans people compared to cisgender people. In light of their strong objections, the members of the Transgender community called for a Press Conference at the Indian Women’s Press Corps, 5 Windsor Place, Delhi at 3:45 pm on the 18th of December.

Sampoorna, a Trans and Inter Sex Rights Organisation, published a clause by clause criticism and list of demanded changed of the Bill. The organization issued a strong statement against the Bill stating “The bill, in fact, threatens to destroy the fabric of the transgender community and the frail mechanism of mutual housing support and livelihood generation by begging that the transgender community has evolved for itself in the absence of family support. The kind of deletions the government has made from the 2015 draft bill, especially after the community recommendations that were made in January this year, only goes to show that the government has made no provisions to ensure alternative livelihood and other support for the trans community. This bill is a dangerous form of tokenism.”

 

 

Read the verbatim (uncorrected) proceedings of the Lok Sabha on the 17th of December 2018 HERE

 

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