BENGALURU: The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday even while trans rights activists across the country protested the bill, some even dubbing the days as Monday Gender Justice Murder Day.
The Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Rattan Lal Kataria, is certain that the bill will guarantee the required rights and welfare measures to transgender persons. In this vein, the bill identifies and criminalises discrimination in access to employment, education, healthcare and other facilities. It also makes provisions to set up a National Council for Transgender persons which would advise the Central Government by monitoring policies, legislation and projects
Nisha Gulur, a programme manager at an NGO and a trans rights activist, expressed that the bill has evoked a mixed response since it does not criminalise begging unlike the 2018 bill. “I welcome this. However, the very fact that I have to go through a district magistrate and screening committee to get an ID card to decide whether what I claim I am is true or not is a violation of human rights and goes against the NALSA judgement of 2014,” she said.
Another major contention that Gulur has, is that the bill does not recognise Hijira family structures. “If my family abandons me, I will be taken to the state’s rehabilitation facility,” she said.
While the bill identifies discrimination and criminalises acts of sexual violence against transgenders, activists have a problem with the sentence that it proposes. Rajesh Srinivas, the executive director of Sangama, an LGBT rights and HIV prevention NGO, said, “the punishment for abuse against Cisgender is seven years, but for the same offense, the bill proposes a maximum sentence of two years,” he pointed out.
It makes people in the trans community feel like second-class citizen, “How can the same crime have different sentences?” asks Gulur .
The bill is also silent on affirmative action, a demand that the transgender community has put forward for years. “There have been a few changes made to the 2018 bill, but I would call them surface-level changes that haven’t really taken into heed what the need of the community is,” said Srinivas. The bill is due to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.