Amnesty International India Launches Campaign for Transgender Rights

Amnesty International India
India: 12 August 2017 7:38 am

“Indian authorities must adopt recommendations made by civil society groups and Transgender communities on the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 and swiftly enact into law”, Amnesty International India said today.

On the 8th edition of the Kerala Pride March, Amnesty International India launched ‘Transgender Rights Are Human Rights’, a nationwide campaign to amend the Transgender Rights Bill, pending in Parliament since last year. Activists and transgender community members have opposed various provisions in the bill in its current form.

In the bill, the definition of ‘transgender person’ retains a male-female binary focus and equates gender identity solely with biological sex. The Bill criminalises beggary, which may lead to the further marginalization of transgender persons, whose access to livelihood options and education is already very limited. Moreover, the directive to state governments for establishing rehabilitation homes as an alternative to restoring transgender persons to their family homes is in violation of their constitutional right against discrimination.

“The bill contains several problematic assumptions about the transgender persons, which shows that the government did not consult the transgender community on a law that would affect their lives. The Supreme Court has provided clear guidance for authorities to design policies and take steps to recognize transgender persons as equal citizens. These guidelines should be strictly followed instead of treating transgender persons as guinea pigs for their own welfare programmes”, said Rekha Raj, Women’s Rights Manager, Amnesty International India.

Even so, the committee did make some important recommendations on definition of transgender persons, discrimination faced by them and provided for graded punishments for offences against transgender persons. It also recognized the culpability of state agents and others for the violation of rights of transgendered persons. However, against the counsel of rights groups, the committee recommended the presence of a psychiatrist and psychologist in the District Screening Committee vested with the responsibility of issuing transgender identity certificate. It also recommended that the role of the Chief Medical Officer on this committee, must be clearly defined to prevent the misuse of welfare benefits. These recommendations increase the risk of pathologising transgender identities and violate the right of transgender persons to self identify their gender. The right to self identify has been upheld by the Supreme Court, which explicitly opined that surgical or medical transition is not a prerequisite to identifying as a transgender person.

Last year, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment invited civil society members for consultation with a Parliamentary Standing Committee on the proposed bill. Amnesty International India, along with other civil society organisations, made a number of submissions before this committee in December 2016. However, not all the recommendations made by civil society groups were taken on board by the committee.

“Authorities must listen to the voices of the transgender community before passing any law that adversely impacts their life,” said Rekha Raj, Women’s Rights Manager, Amnesty International India.

The 2011 Census of India registered over 4 lakh persons as ‘others’ in the gender category. In April 2014, the Supreme Court formally recognised transgender persons in India, granting them the right to self identification as male, female or ‘third gender’. A private member bill legislating the rights and welfare of transgender persons was unanimously passed in the upper house of Parliament in April 2015. However, in August 2016, the government introduced an entirely new bill in the lower house of Parliament, which was approved by the Cabinet.

To register your support for this campaign, drop a missed call on the number 8431073900. Amnesty International India will compile your signature and submit the petition to the Government of India.

For more information please contact:

Nazia Erum
Email: [email protected]