Transgender bill will undermine rights and interests of historically wronged communities

trans

National Alliance of People’s Movements’ (NAPM’s) open appeal to the Parliament of India to stop encacement of Transgender Bill, 2016:

The National Alliance of People’s Movements is deeply concerned that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, to which there is massive resistance across the country from the transgender, intersex, genderqueer people, is being tabled in the Winter Session of the Parliament. The Bill in its current form is an unfortunately regressive step back from the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court in NALSA vs UoI (April, 2014), the more acceptable Private Member Bill on Transgender Rights passed by Rajya Sabha in 2014 and the progressive Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) Recommendations issued in July, 2017.

The Bill has a potential to seriously undermine the rights and interests of the already marginalized and historically wronged communities it claims to ‘protect’ and benefit’. It is for these reasons that NAPM appeals to the Parliament of India to stop passage of the Transgender Bill in its current form and instead hold widespread consultations with the communities at stake in the light of NALSA judgement, Private Member Bill and PSC recommendations.

It is indeed appalling that disregarding the significant discourse that has emerged around trans rights as mentioned above, the Bill again resorts to a series of draconian provisions such as – ambiguous and humiliating definition of transgender; arbitrary district screening committee for identification and authentication of trans persons; criminalization of  begging and traditional livelihoods, especially in the light of no provisions for jobs and reservations, non-recognition of the structures of family and care of hijra and trans people, stipulation of lesser penalties in cases of violence and discrimination against transpersons, replacing ‘Transgender Commission’ with a weaker ‘Council’, no affirmative measures to enable education and employment of trans persons etc.

Although, owing to pressure from trans communities across the country, we have been witnessing sporadic news reports that the Government of India has been ‘considering’ incorporation of some of the progressive recommendations of the PSC, such as expanding the definition of ‘transgender’ and dropping the ‘district screening committee’, there is no guarantee on many other substantive and long-standing demands of the community such as stringent penal provisions against discrimination, reservations in education and employment, healthcare, National and State Transgender Commissions etc. in any case no clear official clarity on any of the changes that would be made.

We salute the valiant transgender, intersex, genderqueer people who have been organizing massive resistance across the country, particularly in West Bengal, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Manipur, Maharashtra, Delhi etc. against the unacceptable provisions of the Bill and express our full solidarity with their Call for a National Protest Action on 17th December at Parliament Street, New Delhi.

It is rather ironic that a Bill of this nature, a first of its kind in the 70 years of ‘independent India’, with a claim to undo the historical injustice and recognize citizenship rights of the transgender community is actually trampling upon the rights of the community and denying basic constitutional, civil and citizenship rights. A Bill in the name of the transgender community should ideally be introduced and passed with the approval of the community and certainly not in such a situation where there is enormous critique and wide-spread protests against the Bill.

We appeal to the Parliament of India, as a key pillar of our democratic edifice, and to each and every parliamentarian, across party lines, to stop passage of the Bill in its present form and listen to the demands of the community with sensitivity and openness. We hope the Parliament will stop this version, consult the community and then come up with a Bill, incorporating the progressive aspects upheld by the NALSA judgement, Private Member Bill and PSC recommendations, so that the community welcomes with the Bill open arms and not with protests, petitions and placards.

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Signatories include Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA); Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS); Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; P Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh VyavasayaVruthidarula Union-APVVU and National Centre For Labour; Binayak Sen and Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Gabriele Dietrich, Penn UrimayIyakkam, Madurai; Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party; Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Maj Gen (Retd) SG Vombatkere, Mysuru; Anand Mazgaonkar andKrishnakant, ParyavaranSuraksh Samiti,  Gujarat, others

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