Although the Constitution of India preaches equality among the citizens without any discrimination based on their caste, religion, gender, etc, the people of India are far from practising this entity. People are heavily looked down upon due to their caste or gender affiliations. There are many minority communities in India and worldwide, which are discriminated against based on their affiliations and nature. The LGBTQ community happens to be one of them and within them, the trans community are people who have been completely shunned out of society because of their inability to conform to the binary ideas of gender that are acceptable by society.

The trans community, owing to their difference in nature, have been seen as a threat to the core foundation of gender in society. Members of the trans community are collectively called hijras. Most people do not understand the meaning of the term hijra and use it in a derogatory sense. They do not get significant jobs because of the perception that they are unable to perform any. Being a parent of a transgender child is considered shameful and members of trans community are not allowed to marry and bear children.

Since most people in the Indian society and the global arena fail to understand the heterogeneity of gender, they see such trans persons as a threat to the traditions and culture and try to remove them from the society. Shunned, these people are not provided with any basic human, political, and civil rights and do not have any access to the necessities. They also have no access to education or healthcare.

The main issue with the Indian Education System is that they don’t facilitate skill acquisition. While moving further up, many students drop out, which creates a learning gap. Trans persons fall under this category. Many trans students are subject to a lot of bullying owing to their nature, which leads them to drop out of schools and colleges or committing suicide. In India, schools and colleges are not sensitive to trans people. The University Grants Commission and the Central and State Education Boards have to make more policies inclusive of them and make sure that these policies are implemented and that the bullying of the trans students is stopped immediately to facilitate their education.

Another benefit that is not accessible to trans people is healthcare. Trans people are often refused care from various health services. They also face harassment and physical attacks in the hospitals which in turn makes them skeptical to take the help of hospitals and doctors. Many are admitted to hospitals and left untreated. This kind of behavior has scared them and forces them to stay away from healthcare institutions. Apart from this, since they are also derived from education, they are unaware of a lot of important health care benefits and treatments that should be accessible to people in general and them.

Besides these, they are constantly ridiculed and discriminated against, which results in identity issues. They also go through a lifetime of poverty and are subject to human trafficking. They are subject to unemployment and homelessness.

Through time, the trans community, after being an integral part of the LGBTQ community, has protested against this injustice and discrimination. This had made the government create some policies and laws for the trans community.

  • The Supreme Court of India recognized the third gender along with the primary genders of ‘male’ and ‘female’. This decision has successfully shattered the dual-gender structure of “male” and “female” that is usually recognized by society.
  • The Supreme Court has given certain directions for the protection of the rights of the trans persons by including them in documents like the election card, passport, driving license and ration card, and for admission in educational institutions, hospitals, amongst others.
  • Articles 15, 16, and 21, do not allow the violation of discrimination on the grounds of gender.
  • The Court recognized the right of an individual to choose how to behave in private and allowed them the means needed to reach their full potential. The Court noted that a person will not realize his abilities and interests if he is forced to accept a gender assigned to him at birth. He should thereby be given the freedom to choose for himself to reach his full potential.
  • The Court also protects an individual’s gender expression invoked by Article 19 (1) (a). It upholds that “no restriction can be placed on one’s appearance or choice of dressing subject to the restrictions contained in article 19(2) of the Constitution”.
  • Human rights were awarded to them which includes the right to life, liberty, equality, dignity, and freedom of thought and expression.
  • The decriminalization of Section 377 of IPC is also a colossal step for solving transgender issues.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was passed on November 26, 2019, by the Parliament. It is the revised version of the Bill that was passed in 2016 and 2018. The previous Bills were heavily criticized for various reasons, one being that they were not at par with the Supreme Court judgment in National Legal Services Authority. The 2019 Bill attempted to define someone whose gender does not match the one assigned at birth. This bill included transgender persons in the Constitution, thereby including them in our society and providing them with legal human rights. It also prohibited any kind of discrimination and harassment based on an individual’s gender.

The provisions of this bill are:

  • It recognizes the 3rd gender after the Supreme Court ruled in the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgment that the third gender should be legally recognized.
  • It defines a transgender as someone who is partly female or male or a combination of female and male or neither female nor male. It advocates that the person’s gender must not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes trans-men, trans-women, persons with intersex variations, and gender-queers.
  • The government must provide the necessary support, like rehabilitation, self-employment, and healthcare.
  • The bill prohibits discrimination and harassment against members of trans community and protects them from any kind of violence.
  • A strict penalty has been assigned against discrimination, either in public or in private.
  • It holds that the members of the trans community must obtain identity proof which is provided by the district magistrate (DM) on the recommendations of medical experts, government officials, and one other transgender.
  • A National Council for transgenders is to be set up to protect their interests.

In time, many states have taken certain measures to make the lives of transgenders easy. Some of them are:

  • Odisha categorized transgenders under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category which now enables the community to avail of socio-economic benefits, which might otherwise be out of their reach.
  • Tamil Nadu constituted the Aravanis Welfare Board in 2008 for providing a pension for the community.
  • Kerala came out with a Transgender Policy to help transgenders.

This bill too has been criticized by many and has been a topic of debate and discussion.

The reason why the Transgender Protection Bill was due to the efforts of the LGBTQ Community whose aim was to ensure equality in our society. Yes, this monumental change of the Supreme Court acknowledging the transgenders as any other human is celebratory but we cannot forget that in a world of trillions, some people who do not understand or accept anything other than the binary ideals of gender still walk the earth and attempt to make the lives of such people difficult. Even though the Constitution has passed the Protection of Rights Bill, many civil servants refuse to help transgenders and indulge in violent activities because they do not accept the bill or the existence of such persons. Members of the trans community are still subject to the same amount of harassment as before, if not more. 

Members of the transgender community such as Revathi and Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi have openly spoken about their struggles in their autobiographies to show the world the kind of harassment that every transgender person has to face in today’s world. While many succumb to these inhuman challenges, people like Lakshmi and Revathi have not only fought their battles but are now helping millions of other transgender’s fight as well. Many non-profit organizations have also dedicated themselves to help such people. The usage of terms such as “coming out” or using the term as a hijra only for insults, shows the deep-rooted hatred for such people among us and while many transgenders are moving up in society, the social issues that they face since birth are still probable in society. While the mindset of people is slowly changing, whether a complete change will ever be possible is a point of debate among scholars today. As citizens of India, we should all accept this natural entity even if we fail to understand the mechanisms of it.

Indrakshi Ghosh

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