Members of the Transgender, Intersex and gender non-conforming communities addressed the press at the Indian Women’s Press Corps in Delhi on 27th November 2019, a day after the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill was passed in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament yesterday without any amendments amidst outrage by the Trans community activists and civil society members all over India. “On the Transgender Day of Remembrance, they introduced this insulting Bill in the Rajya Sabha. This is not protection of rights, but murder of rights,” said Ray R, a Trans woman studying law in the University of Delhi.
A panel comprising of prominent trans activists Grace Banu, Vikramaditya Sahai, Shume Banerjee, Vihaan, Saransh Pathak, and Ray R addressed the media yesterday in Delhi while similar press conferences also took place in various other cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. The panel called the Trans Bill out for being extremely regressive and pointed out how it takes away the right to self-determination away Transgender people. “When you read the bill, there are certain presumptions that they have kept in mind like how as trans people, we do not have the basic ability to understand ourselves. We are only reduced to our bodies,” said Shume Banerjee.
The panel called the Trans Bill out for being extremely regressive and pointed out how it takes away the right to self-determination away Transgender people.
The Trans Bill states that it aims to provide a mechanism for social, economic, educational empowerment and protection of the rights of Transgender people. But it has been vastly criticised by the Trans community for provisions like the maximum punishment for sexual violence against Trans people being an imprisonment sentence upto 2 years (the minimum punishment for a similar offence against cis-gendered people is much higher) and the absence of a reservation clause for Trans people in educational institutions, employment, and healthcare. Other clauses like the requirement of an application to the District Magistrate for legal recognition of a Transgender person’s identity after supplying the proof of Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS), provisions concerning discrimination having no penalties, and the pressure on Transgender people to live with their birth families, have drawn the ire of the Transgender people all over the country.
“The bill now is actually trying to say that no matter what your dysphoria is, you only can be Trans in this one way. Now, some of us feel dysphoric about what our chests look like, some of us feel dysphoric about what our faces look like. Some of us feel dysphoric about how we feel inside and no matter what surgery we do, we still end up feeling dysphoric. But what the Bill is trying to say is that no matter what is your dysphoria, the only thing you can do for it is actually to do the same thing for everyone,” said Vikramaditya Sahai, a Trans activist and scholar.
Shedding light on how the Trans Bill “reduces trans people to their bodies”, Sahai added, “We need to constantly emphasise that we Trans people are not simply asking for recognition of difference, because yes, we have different access to caste and class capital, and yes, so we can’t all access SRS. But it’s also that all of us don’t necessarily need not just want, need SRS in order to actually become the fullest version of ourselves.”
Sahai added, “We need to constantly emphasise that we Trans people are not simply asking for recognition of difference, because yes, we have different access to caste and class capital, and yes, so we can’t all access SRS. But it’s also that all of us don’t necessarily need not just want, need SRS in order to actually become the fullest version of ourselves.”
After the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this year in August, members of the Trans community launched several awareness campaigns and organised various protests to voice their concerns against the Bill. Due to their repeated efforts, political support from leaders like Rajeev Gowda (Congress), Derek O’ Brian (Trinamool Congress), P. Wilson (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), and Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party) has also come pouring in. Notable leader Tiruchi Siva from the DMK had also proposed many amendments to the Bill and insisted that the Bill be sent to a select committee, but both the requests were rejected by the House.
Also stressing on the need for grave amendments to the Bill and it being sent to a select committee, Shume Banerjee said, “If our political executives are not in a place to understand that what are the points we should have in consideration when writing the Bill, we have experts they can consult. They can always refer to Tiruchi Siva’s Bill, which for us is the ideal Bill.”
The panel further insisted that, although the Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, the fight against it is far from being over. “We want the President to not sign the bill and send the bill back to the parliament,” said Ray. Talking about other demands of the community, Banerjee added, “If we get the President to not sign the bill, we should not feel they are doing any ‘ehsaan’ (favour) on us. If this government can understand that Section 377 can be repealed, they can also understand the rights of our community. We are fighting for our rights. We are fighting for justice. This is a fight to live with dignity because the most important fundamental right that the constitution gives us is the right to live with dignity and our dignity is directly affected by this particular Bill.”
The panel also issued a press statement saying that the Trans, Intersex and gender non-conforming communities call for a “comprehensive anti-atrocities, anti-discrimination legislation, that upholds and ensures equal access to all civil rights and spaces of housing, employment, education and medical care for transgender persons, not this watered down and dangerous piece of legislation.”
Featured image has been provided by the author herself.