New Delhi: December 17, 2017:
Hundreds of transgender, intersex and gender non confirming people and their allies came together in Delhi at Parliament street on Sunday morning to protest against the Government of India’s Transgender persons (Protection of Rights) bill, 2016. Waves of protests and press conferences have been taking place over the last week in all these states and today all these groups converged in Delhi.
Members of communities all across the country came to Delhi from W. Bengal, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Kerala and Bihar.
- Raja, MP, came to the protest site and pledged his support to the protesters. He said “No one can tell you who you are. Go ahead and raise your voice. Let us see how sensitive the Parliament really is to the concerns of the people”.
Kavita Krishnan from AIPWA also pledged her support to the protestors, linking their issues to the widespread curtailing of rights across minority communities, as did Gargi di from NFIW. Representatives from JNU workers and students organizations, such as JNUSU, BAPSA, AISF, BASO, and AISA. A passing AAP worker saw the protest and took to the stage to voice his support and link this to the passage of the women’s reservation bill.
In 2016, the Ministry of Social Justice brought forward a modified version of its bill on transgender persons. This version of the bill had regressive provisions and was met with widespread resistance. The Central Government formed a Standing Committee to better understand the issues, which brought out a broadly progressive report in 2017, but also indicated the largely negative response of the Ministry of Social Justice to its own recommendations. Confusion remains over what suggestions of the Standing Committee had been accepted. Some media reports claimed the government had accepted nine changes but there has been no official confirmation from the social justice Ministry.
Aparna from West Bengal said “How can the government tell me who I am? If I do not accept my mother and parents telling me what my gender should be, do you think I accept this government’s opinion? If this government will police and criminalize our identity, why doesn’t it just kill us?” The protest at parliament street came in the backdrop of the central government’s decision to introduce the bill in the current winter session of parliament despite nationwide protests on key provisions of the bill. Veena from Karnataka said “Many of us come from poor backgrounds and our only acceptance is from the transgender community, our only livelihood is from traditional begging. If even that is criminalized, we will starve”. Anjali from Telangana said “If we are given the chance to work, we will do a great job and excel, but for that we need the NALSA judgment to be implemented”.
Grace Banu from Tamil Nadu said “Without reservation, we have no opportunities. No one is ready to offer us the chance to work”. Chandramukhi Muvvala from Hyderabad said “Implement the NALSA judgment!”
After the supreme court passed its historic NALSA verdict in 2014 that called for reservations and recognised the rights of trans people, a private members bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva. But last year, the government brought it’s own version of the bill in the Lok Sabha, wwhich largely did away with the progressive points of the NALSA verdict or the Private Member’s Bill. In 2016, the Ministry of Social Justice brought forward the modified version of its bill which had several regressive provisions:
- introducing the criminalization of the traditional hijra livelihoods and family structures.
- upholding a governmental screening committee for deciding who is and is not transgender, which is a violation of the Supreme Court’s NALSA vs. UOI 2014 judgement.
- encoding discrimination with lower penalties for sexual and physical violence against transgender people
- upholding a regressive and unscientific definition of a transgender person.
- rejecting Reservation Policies and other Affirmative Actions as proposed for transgender people in Supreme Court’s NALSA judgement.
Our key demands are:
Hold widespread consultations with transgender community members from all gender identities and regional identities before bringing this bill before the Lok Sabha
Implement the key recommendations that will decriminalize the transgender community and provide equal penalties for violence against transgender people as for all people.
Uphold reservation and anti-discrimination policies that hold the key to liberating transgender people from the widespread barriers to employment and education we face.
WHO ARE WE?
Transgender persons have a strong physical and/or cognitive discomfort with the gender which is socially, legally and medically unambiguously assigned to our bodies at birth. Persons who don’t identify as transgender are cisgender.
Intersex: Persons with intersex variations have bodies that do not conform to medical, legal and social categories of male and female, in various ways [anatomical, chromosomal, hormonal etc]. Some intersex persons are uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, in which case they may be transgender and intersex; but if not, they can be cisgender and intersex.
Hijra: The Hijra community is a sociocultural group whereby some members of the transgender and intersex communities formally enter a traditional system of living together and mutual support. They may take on different identities and names in various local languages: kinnar in Hindi, tirunangai in Tamil, aravani in Tamil, mangalamukhi in Kannada. Some kinnars may identify as Triteeya prakriti or third gender while others do not.
Transgender woman: Transgender women are transgender persons who identify as women, regardless of how they look, or dress. Some transgender women are also hijra identified while others are not.
Transgender man: Transgender men are transgender persons who identify as men, regardless of how they look, or dress. In Tamil Nadu some transmen may also identify as thirunambi.
Shivashaktis and Jogtas/Jogappas: These are culturally specific groups who are socially permitted a feminine gender expression in the context of specific religious roles.
Genderqueer/Gender non-binary/Gender fluid/Agender/Intergender: Persons who do not identify within the gender binary may have a variety of gender identities including but not limited to these categories above.
The Indian Census attempted to assess the number of transgender persons while collecting census data for the first time in 2011, finding a total population of around 4.88 Lakh. However, these data are likely to be a severe underestimate, because many trans persons might identify within the gender binary, while others who identify as transgender may not be able to openly communicate their transgender identity. In 70 years of independence, all governments and political parties have mostly ignored the existence and rights of trans persons, even though the most important responsibility of the State is towards those who have been historically marginalised due to their identities.