The upper house (Rajya Sabha) of the Indian Parliament passed the much-opposed Transgender Person’s (Protection) Bill, 2019, on Tuesday.
The bill stipulates that trans people can only identify themselves as something other than their birth gender after undergoing 'gender-affirming' 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, they still need a certificate from the chief medical officer and the district magistrate.
Replying to a debate on the bill, Indian minister of social justice and empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot said that wider consultations have been made while framing the rules of this legislation. He said the recommendations of the Supreme Court and the suggestions of the members of the Rajya Sabha have been taken into consideration.
Before passing the bill, the House negated with voting Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party member Tiruchi Siva's demand to send the bill to a Select Committee. A select committee is a committee made up of a small number of parliamentary members appointed to deal with bills. They are brought together if there is a logjam on particular bill.
Tiruchi Siva had said that just passing the bill will not serve the purpose. He said it must be passed in a comprehensive and wholesome manner. He said this bill requires more deliberations as some of the clauses are ambiguous in nature.
He suggested that a Statutory Commission, like the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission, may be set up to resolve the grievances of the transgender. He also appealed that punishment prescribed under the bill for the sexual abuse of transgenders must be re-fixed on the lines of punishment clauses set for other rape cases. Siva urged that funds must be earmarked for the employment and education of transgenders.
“Asking transgender persons to get a c,ertificate of identity is humiliating them. Let the Bill go for revision and rethinking,” Parliamentarian Jaya Bachchan had said during the discussion.
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Another parliamentarian, Vijayasai Reddy, said the Bill states that a person will be recognised as ‘transgender’ on the basis of a certificate of identity issued by a District Magistrate. However, it fails to clarify recognition and enforcement of self-perceived transgender identity.
The National Legal Services Authority versus the Union of India is a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India, which declared transgender people to be a third gender, affirming that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to transgender people and giving them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female, or third-gender.
Reaction of Transgender Community
It is being seen as a huge blow to the transgender community, which held a parade opposing the legislation in the national capital on Sunday.The critics argue the legislation fails to protect the third gender.
“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 workplace?” Dhananjay, a Chandigarh-based trans woman said at the parade.
“The 2014 NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) judgement had given the trans community the right to self-identification, but the Bill takes that away,” Pratay, who identifies as a trans man said.
After clearance from both the Houses of Parliament, a Bill goes to the President of the country for final stamp of approval before it becomes a law.