CHENNAI: July 20 marked the 47th anniversary of the NASA’s famed Apollo 11 mission, which placed man on the threshold of moon – a giant leap for the mankind, indeed. Several decades and astronomical miles apart, when on Wednesday last the Union Cabinet cleared the draft Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, it was hailed as a giant leap that would mitigate the stigma against the marginalised community and attempt to bring them to the mainstream. However, among the cheers there were voices of dissent from within the community. It was a step in right direction, they agreed, but not a leap.
Grace Banu, a transgender engineering student and activist, who announced a protest march in Chennai, insists that she is not being cynical. “I wholeheartedly welcome the government’s acknowledgement. However, the issues under discussion are only the welfare schemes, not our rights,” said the 27-year-old.
One of the major concerns is the lack of reservation for the community. According to the draft Bill, transgenders, who by birth do not belong to SC or ST, may be declared members of OBC and entitled for reservation under the existing ceiling. The Bill the cabinet cleared was largely modelled on the Bill moved by DMK MP ‘Tiruchi’ N Siva, the first private member’s Bill to be adopted by the House in decades. The recommendations on reservation, however, was omitted. “My Bill had focused on two per cent reservation from primary education to employment for the transgenders, but the government has taken that away,” Siva told Express.
The young and educated activists like Banu get their voices heard, but what about the ones who linger in the dark alleys of the city, the ones who seek alms. They are the ones who are often at the receiving end of police harassment. The draft Bill has provisions for stringent punishment for offences against the transgender community, but is silent on what happens when officials become the perpetrators.