[India] Revised trans rights bill before parliament

A  revised version of the transgender rights bill was presented to parliament following criticism from the transgender community about the government’s first attempt, The Himalayan Times reports.

Although India’s Supreme Court officially recognised trans people as a third gender - assigning them equal rights under the law in 2014 - members of the community are often shunned leading many to rely on begging or sex work for survival.

Objectors to the original bill reportedly said sections of it would violate their rights. The new bill aims to protect transgender people from discrimination in education, employment, healthcare and when renting or buying property. It also holds the government and its agencies more accountable in upholding these rights.

If passed, the bill would allow trans people to amend their gender on legal documents without seeking the approval of a ‘screening committee’, a step which was a requirement in the earlier version. A section in the bill making begging by transgender people a crime - punishable by up to two years in prison - has also been removed after campaigners expressed concern it could be misused.

The changes were welcomed by transgender rights campaigners but they continue to be broadly critical of the bill. Activist Karthik Bittu Kondaiah (speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation) said, “It is a less dangerous bill than before but it continues to have extremely problematic provisions,” pointing out that this bill still proposes far lighter punishment for attacks against transgender people than for similar offences committed against women.

The lower house of parliament passed the previous legislation in December. The ruling party holds the majority in the lower house but the legislation lapsed after it failed to clear the upper house.

Anindya Hajra - a transgender woman and activist at Pratyay Gender Trust - spoke of her disappointment that the revised bill had failed to include job and education quotas for the community. “We are extremely disappointed,” Ms Hajra said. “We are obviously going to fight this tooth and nail.”