10:46am, 26th July, 2016
The Union Cabinet has passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill on Friday. India has been undergoing a transformation ever since Laxmi Narayan Tripathi brought about a revolution in the lives of the Hijra community by becoming a global icon for the transgender people. The Indian community of transgenders or Hijra or Khwajah Sarah as we call them, is one of the oldest transgender community known to the world with a strength of approximately 5 lac persons as per 2011 Census.
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What is Gender? What is Sex? This is a question that the whole world is currently trying to answer. So I looked up the WHO website to find out how these terms have been defined- http://apps.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/
“Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.
“Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
Anyone would notice how outdated these statements are today. Sex as a biological and physiological characteristic now includes the entire LGBT community. Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals and Transgenders today are struggling to form a respectable identity all over the world and these definitions are an ugly proof of how the world is still unable to accept this community as one of their own. They are still considered exceptions to the rule. Anyone who falls outside of these definitions is an aberration.
The bill passed by the cabinet aims at social, economic and educational empowerment of the transgender persons and will benefit in mitigating the stigma, discrimination and abuse against this marginalised section and integrate them into the mainstream. Let’s take a look at what reforms have been proposed and why –
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The legislation provides up to two years imprisonment for atrocities against members of the community (a minimum being of 6 months). It suggested amending the Indian Penal Code to include sexual crimes against the community.
Transgenders have been ill treated for ages in India. They are ostracized from the society as soon as they are discovered and it is a matter of shame for the mainstream to have a transgender amongst them. Forcing a transgender into bonded labour, pushing them to leave their home and beg, snatching their land away from them, forcibly removing their clothes and pushing them into prostitution, police violence against them, rapes on transgenders and many such offences have gone unnoticed for years in India. This legislation will provide them a legal protection and a channel to raise their voices against atrocities.
The Bill states that no trans child can be separated from their parents unless ordered by a court.
The hatred towards transgenders is so deep rooted in India that as soon as a child is found to be transgendered, the society either ostracizes the entire family from the community or forces the parents of the child to disown the child. The child is thrown out of the community at a very young age and sometimes picked up by the Hijra community and raised with them. If the Hijra community does not find the child, the child may have to face the horrors of rape and prostitution at a very young age. The new legislation will act as a guard against such crimes.
The Bill proposed the establishment of a National Council of Transgender Persons.This Council will advice the government regarding the issues faced by the community and ensure that transgender persons are accepted within the fold of society and have access to the same resources and opportunities as other members of the society.
The transgender community due to its social exclusion has been facing lack of proper education, healthcare and basic human rights that should be available to any individual. They are denied these rights by common man out of sheer disrespect and disregard for them. With the help of the National Council of Transgender Persons the government proposes to start schemes to provide them scholarships, textbooks, hostel accommodation, healthcare facilities, etc.
The Bill recognizes that the transgender community is a backward community and should be included among the OBC category if the child is not already in the SC/ST category.
‘Reservation’ has become a piece of cake these days in India with every other community whether big or small wanting to have their share in it. On the other hand those communities that really are socially and economically backward still remain neglected under the daunting shadows of the overgrowing aggressive deceptively backward communities. With this backdrop, recognizing the transgenders as backward and ensuring reservations for them in the educational and professional sector will drive the movement of social acceptance across the country.
Image source: cloudfront.net
But the question still remains that despite all the legal bindings and reforms will the Indian society open its arms to accept this community as one of their own? Time will tell!
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