Transgender in India
20 Apr 2021
In India, hijras are considered one of the most marginalized groups. They face discrimination and abuse which leads to various social and economic outcomes like a low literacy rate. As a result, they resort to begging and sex work to earn a living. This increases their susceptibility to diseases like AIDS and HIV. Trans people also face a lot of struggle while accessing health care services and there are numerous records to suggest inappropriate behavior and discrimination displayed towards them by the doctors. Transgenders are also prone to sexual abuse and assaults. It’s claimed that one in two transgenders have been sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. These abuses cause severe emotional distress and mental agony for many transgender women. To cope with these realities, many survivors start indulging in drugs and alcohol or resort to self-harm.
Transgenders were legally granted the right to vote as a third sex in the year 1994. On 15 April 2014, the supreme court of India declared transgender people a socially and economically suppressed class with entitlement for reservation in education and jobs. The court ruled that transgender people have a fundamental constitutional right to change their gender identity without any sort of surgery. On 24 April 2015, the Rajya Sabha passed the Rights of Transgender Person Bill, 2014 guaranteeing rights and entitlement, reservation in education and jobs as well as prevention of abuse and voice. However the bill contained major drawbacks and a lack of clarity on how various ministries would cooperate to implement its provisions, the bill was never brought to vote in the lower house.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016, which was initially introduced in the Parliament in August 2016 was re-introduced to Parliament in late 2017. Many transgender activists have opposed the bill because it doesn’t address issues such as marriage, divorce, and adoption for transgender people. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 17 December 2018 with 27 amendments. The bill was sent to a parliamentary committee but lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
A government bill, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, was reintroduced after the 2019 general election. Many transgender activists have identified many problematic aspects of the bill. This bill requires a transgender person to approach a district magistrate to obtain a certificate stating that they are transgender. Only after that will they be able to change their gender to male or female on government identity cards. The process to obtain this certificate is to show proof of sex reassignment surgery which is something not all transgenders want. Sex reassignment surgery is also a very expensive procedure that a lot of transgender people can’t afford. The bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender doesn’t match with the biological sex, including trans men and women, or one who is genderqueer. It also says that a trans person is someone with intersex variations. However not every transgender person identifies as transgender and not every transgender person is intersex amalgamating intersex and trans identities erase both identities. When a cisgender woman is raped, her rapist -once convicted- will be sentenced to a minimum of seven years of jail, extending to a life sentence. However, when it comes to a transgender person, the minimum sentence can extend to a maxim of two years. The trans community is being treated so unfairly. The bill also doesn’t provide any kind of reservation to transgender people. The Bill also has no mention of things like marriage rights, adoption rights, property rights, social security, or pension... Since the bill was passed, the transgender community started protesting against the bill, urging President Ram Nath Kovind not to give his assent.
Although attempts have been made to change the lives of transgender lives in India, they continue to face discrimination and violence in society. From being mocked to facing unfair treatment at the workplace, the Indian transgender community leads a very arduous life. The only way we can make the lives of trans people better in India is by sensitizing people about trans identities and recognizing them in every aspect of society. Sex education must be made mandatory in school so that students learn about trans identities and the LGBTQIA community. Since a lot of trans people in India engage in begging and sex work, a vital part of sensitization also involves making people realize that these routes of earning money should also be respected... The form of kinship rehearsed in trans communities is the strongest. In this unity, trans people themselves must stand up as one to break the social web of discrimination that is again related to the structural working of caste class, ability, etc. Media and other public institutions must include more trans people as representatives, although, visibility is intimately linked with more violence. Even though it is not necessarily practiced, cis people must realize their privileges and continue to pass the mic to trans people, creating more safe spaces. Although we have a long way to go, it could be feasible enough to think of a better future for trans people.