Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their sex assigned at birth. This term is often confused with transsexual which refers to transgender people who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another identity. The saga of introducing and amending trans community rights started in 2014.

In April 2014, the Indian government recognized transgender people as the third gender of the country. From then onwards, their fundamental rights were protected like other genders in the country. The Bench directed the Centre and States to take steps to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes and extend the reservation for admission in educational institutions and for public appointments. These provisions got lost or diluted till the time they were translated into a bill. Later that year, a bill called The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015 was drafted. It was introduced in the Lower House in 2016 after considerable revisions to the draft. The most fundamental alteration was the one made to the definition of transgender describing them as “partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male”. By the time the bill was passed, the original purpose to cleanse society of the stigma it placed on transgenders was defeated.

The criticism that the bill received stemmed from the fact that the bill was drafted by a committee that comprised cisgender persons only. It is hard to believe that this committee would be versed in the problems faced by trans people as well as trans people themselves. Our country’s legislation and ministries seek suggestions from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) when formulating policies concerning the business. Doesn’t it also make sense that the opinion of the trans community is given due consideration in this scenario?

In 2019, there was a massive uprise when Trans Bill was reintroduced in Lok Sabha. Two major problems with the draft were as follows:

One refers to the bar on the forcible separation of transgender persons from their families, except through court orders. But in actuality, it is the family of a transgender person that poses the biggest hurdle in overcoming the stigma. This community is harassed more within their family than by society. A quote from the movie, ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan’ fits the current situation. It says, “Jo ladayi parivaar ke saath hoti hai woh saari ladayi se sabse badi aur khatarnak hoti hai”. This dynamic in Indian families often forces them to flee their homes.

The bill criminalizes begging and prostitution, which are the two most popular means of livelihood for this community. The bill failed miserably in providing reservation to transgenders in educational institutes or offices. This leaves them with no source of employment or livelihood. The addressal of concerns like civil rights in marriage, divorce, and adoption seems like a distant dream now.

This invited dissent not only from the affected community but also from the general masses of the country. The majority of them were college-going students who came out to protest against this in huge numbers. When the bill was on its final stage of passing in Lok Sabha, the crowd gathered outside the Parliament House. Eventually, the definition of transgender was updated and criminalization of beggary was done away with. But, the new procedure will also subject transgender persons to intrusive medical scrutiny. This bill also makes sexual abuse of transgender community punishable, but the acts that attribute to sexual abuse have not been clearly defined. Also, the imprisonment for this act is only up to 2 years, whereas sexual abuse of a cisgender person leads to an imprisonment of 7 years.

At present, The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 has been passed by both, the lower and upper house of the Parliament, on August 5 and November 20 respectively.

The opinions of the masses are voiced, but not heard. Social media plays an immense role in spreading awareness and gathering solidarity. But it has not been able to create a considerable impact in the field. Despite this, the importance of media in this sphere cannot be underestimated.

This is one of the many examples of where the people of the country came together to protest against a government decision. The year 2019 witnessed a multitude of them, starting from Kashmir, Citizenship Amendment Act, Assam National Register of Citizens, violence in colleges like Jamia Milia University, Jawahar Lal Nehru University.

In conclusion, I shall state my observation. This bill was introduced as a Private bill in Rajya Sabha with progressive intentions of empowering the transgender. The intensity of red-tapism and internalized disgust is so pathetic that the primal objective gets watered down. And ultimately what happened has made the situation only worse, let alone their welfare.

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