Monday, April 22, 2024

Transgender Persons Act: Sordid implications of a failed law

Photo courtesy to Ajita Banerjie

After the heavily criticised, NALSA judgement contradicting, Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Rajyasabha, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment came up with the National Portal for Transgender Persons. A closer look at the same infers a deliberate attempt to make the process of availing these IDs much more laborious.

Starting with the nefarious act in question: Usage of terms like ‘genderqueer’ is a very convenient way to discard a whole identity into a sort of ‘miscellaneous/others’ box. There needs to be more nuance concerning the same. In many places, the document is self-contradicting. On one hand, it talks about the right to self-identification, on the other hand, it involves the vile bureaucratic process of having to apply to the district magistrate (the questionable authority that can ‘choose’ to validate or reject an application that concerns certifying one’s identity).

If that wasn’t enough, there have been reports of gross misconduct in the form of being subjected to medical and psychological tests. (which once again blatantly violates the right to self-identification.)

This blatant condescension on the part of the responsible authority betrays the ignorance and stigma that already surrounds the discourse vis-à-vis trans folk and their confidence in their identity.

“An official source in the Health Department said that in a number of districts, the social welfare offices organised camps for medical and psychiatric evaluation of transgender persons for the purpose of being certified to issue the ID cards. Such camps were organised in districts such as Thanjavur, Salem, Vellore and Chennai and transgender persons were sent to government medical college hospitals and affiliated institutions.”

29 June 2021, The Hindu

There are several mentions of a penalty for ‘false application’ which again raises questions on the gross outlook of our institutions and how they can practice their authority to determine what exactly is construed as ‘false’. (Once again, a violation of the self-identification right.)

The act also mentions the requirement of proof of an address where it is mandatory to have lived over a year. This is an inconsiderate demand which seems to play to the machination of deliberately making these IDs inaccessible to trans folk. Other institutions like even that of civil marriage require just about 30 days of having lived at a place of residence.

Submission of several documents has been made mandatory to avail the ID. This poses a disadvantage to many such trans people who are crippled by poverty, homelessness or have sought shelter in NGOs.

And for those who have successfully registered themselves on the portal are perturbed rightfully by concerns of data security. The existence of trans folk in itself is heresy. With the alarming rate of increase in hate crimes against them, it is not a trivial concern that the data available on the site may be open to abuse by conservatives in the country.

After the nationwide lockdown, trans folk were the worst affected by the pandemic. A recent initiative of the National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) along with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment announced that they would be providing an allowance of Rs.1,500 for ration supplies through direct bank transfer (DBT). Many of these folk do not have bank accounts or access to bank facilities. To add to that, the absence of an identity certificate means being devoid of these social security schemes and health benefits.

“Despite an estimated population of 4.8 million, only 5,711 transgender individuals received the bank transfer and 1,229 received the ration supplies. “When we asked persons from the community to send us their bank account details, to forward to the government, around 80% told us that they have no bank accounts,” said Tinesh Chopade, advocacy manager at Humsafar Trust.”

11 June 2021, Shreya Raman, IndiaSpend

The Grace Banu Ganeshan & Ors. v. Union of India & Anr. was a key landmark case that requested the strike down of Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 12(3), 18(a), and 18(d) of the Act in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

The transphobia in the TPA is ironic and repulsive. An ill-timed consultative process for the reforms in the draft showed how frivolous the institution is.

The reformed draft still lacks the inclusion of intersex and nonbinary persons, doesn’t mention reservation, and represents no plans for gender sensitisation/awareness or programs in educational institutions and workplaces.

What the BJP government is doing seems to be the classic paradigm for performative activism to appeal to the liberal left. However, one should be mindful that these acts are purely perfunctory.

Malaikah Niyazi is a journalism student.

Malaikah Niyazi
Malaikah Niyazi
Malaikah Niyazi is a journalism student.

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