The way bills are being passed in the Rajya Sabha, is quite 'surprising', said Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan after the House cleared contentious Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, earlier this week. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on August 5, the same day Article 370 was abrogated – much without discussion. The Bill was moved for consideration and passage in the lower house by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, saying the bill "seeks to provide a mechanism for social, economic and educational empowerment of transgenders."
Gehlot said the Bill is aimed at eliminating discrimination against transgenders and the government will form a national council for its implementation after the legislation is brought into effect.
The transgender community calling the move, 'murder of rights' has been protesting against the Bill since the day it was passed. Speaking to News Nation, Ray, a trans rights activist, studying LLB from the University of Delhi says, they have appealed to President Ram Nath Kovind not to sign the Bill and send it to a select committee for reconsideration.
The Bill, according to Ray is discriminatory and empowers everyone around them else than the community itself. "The Bill is in violation of 2014 NALSA judgment which declared us as a third gender and violates rights of trans persons to determine their own gender and binds them to binaries," said Ray.
Ray said, "Our bodies will have to be screened before doctors for District Magistrate to grant us the certificates and this process is not even time-bound. If the Magistrate rejects us the certificate, we have nowhere to go. Legal processes are very time-consuming." The Bill includes a provision to set up a district screening committee where the district magistrate based on recommendations will issue a gender identity certificates. The certificate "shall confer rights and be a proof of recognition of his [their] identity as a transgender person."
According to the new law, any physical or sexual abuse, to a transgender person, could attract punishment from six months that can be extended for up to two years. Calling this life-threatening, Ray said, "Why would anyone complain knowing that it is a bailable offense and the accused will be out very briefly."
Ironically, the Bill was introduced on a day when 'Transgender Remembrance Day' was being observed across the globe and was passed on a day when India was celebrating its Constitution Day, Ray said.
Opposition protests Transgender Bill
The Bill was opposed by opposition parties like DMK, NCP, CPI and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who alleged that the government has brought its own version tweaking major provisions suggested in the private member bill.
Vandana Chavan (NCP) said, unfortunately, the government has not brought the Bill in the same format as the private member's bill of the DMK leader. "There are absurd provisions like the definition of transgender and district screening committee. There should have been state councils and board. I suggest the Bill be referred to a select committee," she added.
P Wilson of the DMK said provisions are not sufficient for transgender's welfare. There are no penal provisions against those who harass transgenders.