Standing Committee report on the Transgender Persons Bill, 2016

 

Relevancy:

  • GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper I, II, Sociology optional
  • Transgender Rights in India, Social Justice.

Recently:

  • The Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment submitted its report on the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016. 14
  • The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in August 2016 and referred to the Standing Committee in September 2016.

Who are transgenders?

  • Transgender is often used to refer to people who “do not conform to prevailing expectations about gender.
  • Thus, transgender people are defined from the traditional understanding of gender (male or female) and include broad arrays of groupings such as transsexuals, heterosexual cross dresser males, inter-sexed individuals, etc. whose identity has been defined outside the stereotyped gender norms.
  • Cross-dressers stand for persons who live opposite to the gender with which he was identified at birth but non-transsexual.

Why do they need Justice?

  • The stereotypical gender norm of either male or female is a discursive social construction which, unfortunately, has been internalized by societal beings. This stereotyping creates taboo and often transgender people face social oppression, abuses, physical violence, intimidations, threats, etc. because of their perceived atypical appearances or characteristics. There are various kinds of hurdles that transgender people face in society.
  • In a deeply religious and conservative society as India, transgender people face variety of issues. They are excluded effectively from socio-cultural aspects of life, economically and politically as well they are isolated from the rest and hence there is very less participation in the decision-making processes. This further exacerbates their plight and they remain one of the most excluded and oppressed communities in Indian society.
  • One key reason for their exclusion is that there is no recognition or at least ambiguity in recognizing their status as a “gender”, thereby depriving their legitimate civil rights and many privileges that the two recognized genders of male and female get. The problem of not recognizing a third gender (or sex) deters them from going to courts to fight their cases in cases of discrimination and deprivations (Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, 2014). They are treated as a non-legal entity and unnatural in every sphere of their lives.
  • This is not to deny or not recognizing various changes that have accompanied the changing times, particularly, in urban centres and cities of India. The Delhi High Court’s landmark judgment in favour of LGTB (Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals) a few years ago not only created awareness among citizens but also instilled a sense of assertiveness among the members of the groups.
  • Transgender persons face many problems. There is open discrimination against them. Some of them are: lack of unemployment, social oppression and exclusion, restrictions in educational, cultural, marriage and health facilities, homelessness, drug abuse, hygiene problems, etc. The need to address these problems urgently lies with government and role of civil society. People have to be sensitized. Legal, political and economic interventions by government need to address social injustice against them.
  • First and foremost thing that is required is to give their gender status in official documents to avail medical and job facilities to them. Legal recognition is very much important as it could lead to subsequent social and political recognition. There should be changes in the statutes such as Indian Penal Code (IPC) in case of India.
  • The definition of “Rape” in IPC must be elaborated to include transgender persons. They must be enumerated in the census and their region wise population has to be documented for proper interventions in various spheres that impact their qualitative lives.

Key recommendations of the Standing Committee include:

  1. Definition of ‘transgender persons’: Under the Bill, the definition of a transgender person includes one who is:
  • neither wholly female or male;
  • a combination of female and male; or
  • neither female nor male.
  • It also requires that such a person’s gender should not match the gender assigned at birth, and includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations and gender-queers.

The Standing Committee observed that this definition is against global norms and violates the right to self-determined gender identity. It recommended that the definition be modified to cover those whose gender does not match with the gender assigned at birth and include transmen, trans-women, gender-queers, and other sociocultural identities.

  1. Further, transgender persons may choose to identify as ‘man’, ‘woman’ or ‘transgender’, irrespective of sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy.
  2. Process of certification as a transgender person: As per the Bill, a transgender person must obtain a certificate of identity indicating the gender as ‘transgender’. This would be granted by the District Magistrate on the recommendation of a Screening Committee. A revised certificate may be obtained if there is any subsequent change in gender. The Committee recommended that the certificate indicate identity only as ‘transgender’, and not ‘male’ or ‘female’. Consequently, the provision for revised certificate should be removed.

Other recommendations:

The Standing Committee recommended the inclusion of certain other provisions in the Bill, such as:

  • defining the term ‘persons with intersex variations’ to cover those who show variations in their sexual characteristics;
  • granting reservations under the category of socially and educationally backward classes; and
  • recognition of civil rights like marriage, partnership, divorce and adoption.

 

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