Not my Bill: Indian Hijra community rejects current Transgender Rights Bill

Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel | First published: 17 November 2016, 22:49 IST
Photo: Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

A people, historically othered, never recognised as individuals, discriminated against, kept outside of society, were finally acknowledged as worthy of rights by the Supreme Court in 2014. Here, one speaks of the broadly categorised 'transgender' community in India.

A year after the establishment of their right to an identity, the Rajya Sabha passed a private members bill drafted by the office of MP Tiruchi Siva to further introduce protection of trans rights.

Also read - New transgender Bill diluted, says MP behind the original Bill

The conversation seemed to finally be moving forward, especially with the National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India judgment (NALSA judgement), that is, until The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 came into being.

This Bill, which stands to be introduced in the Lok Sabha and is currently pending before the Standing Committee, is, as a group of transgender and Hijra voices point out, "seriously problematic".

This is so because a lot of these voices were not consulted for the drafting of the Bill and as one of them said, "bas NGOs ko poocha hai sarkar ne. Community se kisi ne baat nahi ki." (The government consulted with the NGOs and not our community.)

Two bills, two interests

While the original Bill was sensitive to the right of a person to identify themselves as "man", "woman" or "transgender", the current one sees in binaries.

This is to say that while the original Bill would have accommodated the need for a man born as a woman to be identified as a "man" or a "transgender", depending upon their preference, the new Bill only allows for "transgender".

Not only does the Bill reject any claim for a 'transperson' to identify themselves as male/female, it further breaks down what a transgender person is, albeit rather problematically.

"The Bill breaks down what a transgender person is, albeit rather problematically."

The Bill assumes that transgenders are, quite literally, an embodiment of the mythicalardhanarishwara. Basically that they're "neither wholly female nor wholly male", "a combination of female or male", or "neither female nor male", leaving no room for fluidity.

Also, the Bill fails to factor in socio-economic aspects, culture, their histories and only registers a trans identity as a biological one. And even there, it's flawed.

A large percentage of Indian trans population belongs to the Hijra or the Kinnar community. And going by the meeting on 16 November, where representatives of the community from different Indian states were present, they're completely opposed to this Bill.