"This Bill’s passage is a remarkable thing. It is part of a long drawn struggle including the Supreme Court’s judgment last year.”
New Delhi-based transgender activist Simran Shaikh was one amongst many from the community who watched from the visitors' gallery as the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed a Private Member's Bill providing for and protecting their rights. This is a welcome change and a tangible step forward, after the ambiguous announcement about the West Bengal government setting up a transgender welfare board which was met with considerable skepticism from the community.
This is the first time in 45 years that a private members' Bill has been passed by the House, and the Bill, moved by Rajya Sabha MP Tiruchi Siva, includes 58 clauses and 10 chapters dealing with a range of relevant issues such as reservation in education and jobs, financial aid, social inclusion, skill development and prevention of abuse, violence and exploitation.
Known as The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, it lays down the foundation for a similar law in the country soon and the House has received assurance from the government that it would bring an updated Bill in the Lok Sabha. According to The Hindu, sources said that while the government “accepts the spirit and sentiment of the Bill, it has infirmities that need to be removed.”.
As of now, we can look forward to a fresh Bill being brought forward by the government after the 'impractical clauses' have been eliminated. A National Transgender Welfare Commission and a special transgender court are also to be set up.
"There is a need for a national commission for transgender persons with statutory powers on the lines of other such national commissions. While the Tamil Nadu and West Bengal governments formed welfare boards for the purpose, we need a national response,” Mr Siva told The Hindu. “Transgenders face total discrimination, even by their own families. I was very emotional when the House passed the Bill. Members of the transgender community were watching from the (visitors’) gallery,” Mr Siva said.
"They say that nobody is prepared to accept them, their family deserts them, the society doesn't accept them and no person comes closer. So they have to resort to some trade which the society and the law don't accept," he said. Siva also spoke about how despite statistics stating there are around 4.5 lakh such persons in India, according to NGOs working in the segment, the numbers of those in the TG community who face discrimination are estimated to be around 20-25 lakh.
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari