The bill for the transgender community has been under scrutiny ever since its first introduction in the Indian parliament in 2016. After many changes to the initial draft, it was placed in parliament in 2018 and again in 2019 as the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill.
“Despite so many amendments to the bill, it still fails to comply with the demands of transgender community. There are so many things which should be in the bill but they are not”, says Dhananjay, a Chandigarh-based transgender activist.
"The definition of transgender in the bill was wrong when it was introduced but it was changed after we cleared it", she says.
As per the bill, trans people can only identify themselves as man or woman after they have undergone surgery. They will be identified as transgender if they have not undergone surgery, for which they also need a certificate from a district magistrate. If they do undergo surgery, in that case they would need a certificate from the chief medical officer and the district magistrate.
“The bill talks about surgery and identifying the person as male or female. They do not understand that sex and gender are different. While sex is a biological difference, gender is a social construct”, says Delhi-based trans man Ram Tilla, who runs a non-government organisation for trans people.
Tilla and Dhananjay also say that the current bill contradicts the 2014 Supreme Court judgement which gave transgender people the right to “self-identification” as male, female or third-gender.
Currently there is a list of papers that one needs to switch their gender in documents, Dhananjay says while sharing the ordeal of getting gender changed for one of her students.
Among confusion about the identity, protection part of the bill is neither clear nor strong enough to actually protect trans people, as per the critics of the bill.
"If a woman is raped, the minimum punishment is seven years whereas if trans person is raped, it is just two years", says Delhi-based trans man Ram Tilla.
Reiterating Ram’s view, Dhananjay says: “The bill doesn’t even provide us the protection that it claims in its name. It is discriminatory. There is no mention of protection of transgender people in the workplace or educational institutes. Where will we go if there is sexual harassment at work place?”
Ownership of property and adoption of trans kids are among many other issues for the transgender community that remain unaddressed, Ram says.
He says there is so much confusion regarding the bill that the transgender community is not clear about it.
“We go out and support the bill but eunuchs go out and protest against it. They don’t realise that the bill is for them as well. All eunuchs are trans but all trans are not eunuchs. All these things need to be clear”, he says.
#StopTransBill2019 has been trending on Twitter and the community is raising their voice against the bill on the social media platform as well.
We need a trans intifada. We trannies need to be out on the streets fighting. This isn't a way to live anymore, it's dehumanizing this transphobic legislation. #StopTransBill2019— Liliana il Graziosco Merlo Turan 🔴 (@graziosco) November 21, 2019
In this democratic Country we (trans*people ) are Dying every day .#Stoptransbill2019— GRACE BANU (@thirunangai) November 21, 2019
I'm angry and disgusted by this brutal assault against an already vulnerable community. This is cruel and inhumane. Targeted disfranchisement of non-binary people at a constitutional level is an attack on all of us.— 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐚 (@shavyjain) November 21, 2019
Please #stoptransbill2019 https://t.co/NYwv6Is0GK