Civil society groups, including those working for the rights of transgender community, have come out in criticism of the new Transgender (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016, saying while the move was welcome, the bill needed to be reviewed as it had several loopholes and drawbacks that could lead to miscarriage of justice.
One of the major objections raised by them is that the bill’s definition of transgender was not at par with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgment and defined the person as (A) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or (B) a combination of female or male; or (C) neither female nor male.
Nishgulur, a transgender activist and advocacy officer of the NGO Sangama, said this definition was both “inappropriate and derogatory.” She went on to state that the bill does not recognise the self identification process and makes a provision for a district screening committee led by a district magistrate to certify a person’s third gender identity.
“With the team comprising of a psychiatrist, a medical officer, other government officials and another transgender person, this is tantamount to the violation of Supreme Court judgement and Constitutional rights,” Nishgulur said at a press conference.
Christy Raj, a transgender, also associated with Sangama, said he was invited for a consultation by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, but none of the recommendations have made it to the bill. “The new bill is silent on the violence committed by police and family members and does not define the word abuse”.
The activists also lamented that the bill did not adequately address the issue of violence, including sexual assaults, against members of the transgender community. B.T. Venkatesh, founder of ReachLaw and former state public prosecutor of Karnataka government, said the bill made no mention of transgender children, and added that provisions for reservation for the community in education and jobs was also removed.
“This is a huge setback, given the fact that the community is struggling with backwardness, vulnerability and poverty,” Venkatesh said.
The bill is a redrafted version of the original transgender rights bill of 2015, which was framed following the landmark 2014 NALSA judgment of the Supreme Court, wherein the court had directed the Government of India to draft policies to redress the inequities and rights violations faced by India’s transgenders.