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India promises unpopular bill will bring transgender into ‘the mainstream’

India’s cabinet is pushing ahead with a bill hugely unpopular with the country’s transgender community.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 promises to ‘benefit a large number of transgender persons’ according to a cabinet statement released Wednesday (10 July),

It aims to ‘mitigate the stigma, discrimination, and abuse against the marginalized section and bring them into the mainstream of society’.

But, trans rights groups have spoken out against the bill since it was first drafted late last year.

They say it threatens their rights rather than protects them.

Indian trans group, Sampoorna, described the bill last month as a ‘great travesty of justice’.

‘In the name of empowering us, this bill further attempts to criminalize and regulate our identities through arbitrary and draconian means’ a spokesperson told Gay Star News.

‘It must be opposed at all costs’.

‘Burial of rights’

India’s newly-elected government appear hell-bent on passing the bill.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and it’s allied parties won a substantial majority in elections that took place in April and May.

It means prime minister Nahrenda Modi returns for a second term in power.

Last month, he promised to re-introduce the lapsed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016.

The transgender community has slammed the bill throughout its passage through the country’s legislature.

Protests erupted after the Lower House passed the bill in December last year.

Now, however, rights groups are urging lawmakers in the upper house of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, to smack down the bill.

Local thinktank Arguendo dismissed the bill as a ‘burial of human rights’.

In fact, the bill faced condemnation before it even passed the lower house. In a raucous session, MP Shashi Tharoor spoke out against the bill.

’The bill has completely omitted to address critical issues such as the applications of laws on marriage, divorce, and inheritance for the transgender community’ he said.

Many offenses under India’s Penal Code, such as rape, stalking, and sexual harassment, only apply if the victim is female. The bill fails to address this, Tharoor said.

The bill also conflates intersex with transgender. Furthermore, it fails to enshrine the right to self-identify gender.

It upholds criminalization of trans people for organized begging, while denying any opportunities in education, employment, healthcare.

Transgender life in India

India recognized transgender as a third gender in a landmark ruling in 2014.

But, transgender people remain marginalized and at risk of abuse.

One trans politician running for office in Hyderabad went missing during her election campaign.

Earlier this year, a man decapitated a trans priestess in her temple.

The transgender community has, however, witnessed growing visibility.

In the recent general elections, transgender voters were allowed to cast their ballots as a third gender for the first time

A handful of trans and intersex candidates also ran for office. Sneha Kale made headlines as the first-ever trans woman to run in the general election.

India’s first Miss Trans Queen aslo joined one of the country’s largest political parties.

Trans gurus also made history earlier this year by leading a religious procession.

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Author: Rik Glauert