THE TRANS ACT: Distress in Guise of Aid
Trans bill, 2019, written by Anandita Singh
With the BJP-led NDA Government winning up another landslide second term with no political, social or financial subsistence but simply strong-arm politics and the wave of saffron populism of polarisation in the Indian society, it has been easier than ever for the government to turn bills into laws even if it faces criticism. The fragile opposition seems to make their job easier. As the basic characteristic of any right-wing ideological political entity, the inherent ideals of conservativeness and nationalism, the reflection is remarkably clear in the bills introduced in the Parliament by their members and passed by their members and allies.
The drafting of National Educational Policy (which is also opaque in sections), The EIA, The much-feared UAPA, and several others. The Transgender Persons Act is also an element derived from the same title.
The trans community is a community that faces extreme and extensive amounts of social and cultural exclusion despite being a part of the same socio-cultural milieu for centuries and has served in the royal courts. Things were not always the same for them as from historical shreds of evidence it has been found that they have (had) been treated with great respect over three centuries ago. However, everything changed once the East India Company took the helm of India and paved the way for the British Parliament to rule India under subjugation. The imposition of British ideology (mostly orthodox Catholic sect of Christianity) led to the introduction of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 which declared that all of the trans community as “criminals” and also that they were “addicted” to crime. The act was repealed in the year of 1947 but the damage was already done and a deep-rooted stigma was planted in Indian society besides the enmity towards Pakistan by Indians and vice versa.
India has over half a million of people from this community (as of 2014) as Dr. Rajkumar of Chaudhari Devilal University stated in his paper Education of Transgenders in India: Status and Challenges “The community needs to be included in the mainstream development program of the country and be protected from all forms of abuse and exploitation”.
The Trans community is addressed with the following terms in regard to identity (which are not names, as any normal person would think) kinner, hijra, aravasi, and jogta.
As the aim for the introduction of the Transgender Person Bill states to provide for the protection of transgender persons and their welfare and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto, the actual working of the provisions on a closer introspection would clarify that much like the party it is being drafted by, the bills are more or less the same – a paradoxical and tokenistic effort.
The government has stated that this Bill (which is now in drafting stage) when will be passed as an Act will be a powerful tool in the hands of the administration to safeguard the people and transgender community and their interests with regard to the social, cultural, economic, mental and emotional state. When in reality this bill does nothing for such measures but establishes the transgender community as the third gender and not for the purpose to protect or safeguard them. The realistic applications of the provisions seem vague and much like the guidelines prescribed by Arthashastra by Kautilya where the guidelines were merely guidelines for statecraft and the practical economic and political policies were much different.
The Bill lays great emphasis on the Identification section and the issuing of Certificate for Identity of people from the transgender community. The purpose can be considered very noble but can be subjected to potent polarisation by the populist outfits, anytime the waves would turn that way.
The identification of a transgender person is to be carried everywhere and can be asked for inspection from time to time and that would not make them feel protected but make them vulnerable in the public space. There’s no reasonable contradiction on the violence and atrocities the people of the transgender community faces and that’s extensive.
Also with respect to the Identity section, the requirement of a “clinical psychologist’s” report is very suspicious and un-called for. The Bill doesn’t clarify the purpose of this step to apply for an identification certificate but has made this a mandatory provision. The lack of clinical psychologists in the nation and whether most of them will be welcome towards them and fulfill their responsibility is very unclear and the drafters of this Bill seem not to lose any sleep over that.
The identification section also recognizes only those people Trans who go through inter-sex surgery and/or hormone therapy. The Trans Community is one the most economically weaker sections of Indian Society, and many can’t afford day to day meals, let alone hormone therapy which requires lakhs of rupees. Asking the poor trans to go through hormone therapy/inter-sex surgery, only to be provided with an identification certificate which in turn will allow people to discriminate and make public spaces unsafe for them, and not provide them with any kind of aid, is not only a tokenist move but a mockery of their existence.
No welfare measures are prescribed by the central government but simply the burden of that responsibility has been shifted on the local or state governments with the words “The appropriate Government”. This is very much like throwing the balls in others’ court and shrugging off the responsibility while the drafting is by the Union.
The establishments or entities are set by marked guidelines with respect to vigilance but let’s face the practical fact that no employee would report their employer on such actions (whether public or private) and thereby such guidelines make no sense at all.
The National Council for Transgender Person is very much like NITI Aayog, by which government would exercise and exert its propaganda with only 10 out of the total 34 member council being of members not from the government (state or central) but still nominated by the Central Government and only 5 out of 34 members are actually from the Transgender community. This formation of such a council has just made a mockery of representation of the Transgender community for their own rights. Also, for over half a million people only Rs 1,00,00,000 has been allotted.
When the Constitution of India states ‘equality for all’, when it comes to punitive measures they are not at all severe. Even the major offenses of sexual abuse can only be subjected to a maximum of six months to two years of imprisonment and fine. When for a normal person it is not less than twelve to eighteen years. All that of course, after a completely free and fair trial in the Indian Judicial system.
This Bill does no good for the people of the Transgender community except to subject them to uncertain provisions over their identity and in reality makes no effort for their welfare and social and cultural representation.
This community has the lowest life expectancy of not more than 30 years, where the average life expectancy in India is around 80 years. This is the same community that has just 46% literacy (average in India being 74%) and that too when it is just a little over half a million in population. This community has been exploited, abused (mentally, verbally, physically, and emotionally), killed, tortured, driven from their own homes, and their identity used as slurs. It’s is high time to call on our leaderships to make proper provisions for them and take a stand for their welfare.