“Modi sarkar kya karega? Sab ka satya nash karega (What will the Modi government do? It will destroy everyone),” was one of the many slogans that was heard at the protest against the Government of India’s Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018, and Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018. Transgender, Intersex and Gender Non-Conforming persons from across the country gathered today, December 28, at Jantar Mantar in Delhi protesting both the Bills that have been passed in the Lok Sabha and are to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha. Protests are being organised across the country today, with the protesters asking for the withdrawal of both the Bills.
Sunil, an activist from Bengaluru who was at the protest, speaking with NewsClick pointed out that the TG Bill is an example of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s approach to governance. He said, “Who did the government consult before drafting its own Bill? None! No one from the community was consulted and none of the amendments we had suggested have been included in the Bill. This is what the BJP government has been doing, their policy is ‘we will give and you must take’. They think they are doing us a favour by passing this Bill.”
Also read: Redraft or Withdraw Transgender Amendment Bill, Says Trans Community
The protesters were not only protesting the regressive Bills in question but were also protesting against the regressive policies of the Modi government and slogans critiquing such policies of the government were raised. An activist from Karnataka asked, “What has this government done for the oppressed? It has oppressed them even further.” Saying so, she raised slogans of Jai Bhim, Lal Salam, and Inquilab Zindabad.
The Government of India’s TG Bill was passed in Lok Sabha, without being discussed and debated upon on December 17, 2018 and the Trafficking Bill on February 28, 2018. The language of these Bills and their contents prove what Sunil said. This is also clear from the fact that the GOI felt the necessity to draft its own TG Bill when there already exists a Bill and is waiting for its turn to be tabled in the Lok Sabha. The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, piloted by Tiruchi Siva, Member of Parliament (MP), was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 10, 2014. This private member’s bill was discussed in detail by all the members in the Upper House across party lines, and the Bill was approved.
What do the Bills Offer?
The Bill offered remedies against abuse and violence faced by transgender persons by equipping them with job skills, and offering employment opportunities, rehabilitation and social security. However, on December 26, 2015, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment uploaded on its website a revised Bill, calling it the transgender “protection” Bill. Both the TG and the Trafficking Bills, far from protecting the rights of Transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming persons and sex workers, criminalise them.
Also read: Transgender Bill: Denying Constitutional Rights to the Community?
According to the TG Bill, a transgender person needs approval of a screening committee to be identified as a Transgender person. The Bill also mandates Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). The committee has for long been arguing that, “The process of ‘proving’ one's gender in front of a committee violates multiple fundamental rights, and is utterly humiliating.” An activist from Delhi speaking with NewsClick said, “It is high time the government and people realise, this is how we are and this is how we will be.” The Bill she argued takes away the very identity that the trans people have struggled with all their lives, by making SRS compulsory.
The TG Bill criminalises begging and sex work, just as trafficking Bill does. Many in the trans community depend on begging and sex work for livelihood. Culturally, in the northern part of the country, Hijras perform a ritual during weddings and birth of a male child, in which they bless the couple and the newborn, and collect some money and gifts and this is called badhai. The current Bill criminalises this too. A group of Hijras at the protest today, had gotten a dhol and danced, recreating a Badhai scene in protest against the clause that criminalises begging.
Current Bill Denies Rights to Transgenders
Activists from across the country have been arguing, “Contrary to the stated purpose of the Bill - Protection of Trans persons' Rights - it criminalises and discriminates, specifically targeting entire communities of Transwomen, Hijras, and Transfeminine people who have historically practised begging and sex work as the primary source of income.” Unlike the Tiruchi Siva Bill of 2014, the current TG Bill 2018 denies reservations and affirmative action for trans, intersex and gender nonconforming people in employment, education, and healthcare.
Thus, by criminalising the very source of income and shutting doors of affirmative action, it seems like the government wants to lock up the persons those who do not conform to the gender assigned at birth. The Bill is not subtle at all about this plan of the government as it mandates transgender people to reside with their birth family. It is a fact that birth families are often first a site of violence. If trans people are aided by other trans community members in escaping such conditions at home, the community members can be imprisoned for up to four years.
Also read: Muddled Morality: An Attempt at Criminalising Transgender Community