THE Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Dr Thawarchand Ghelot, introduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bills, 2019 in the Lok Sabha despite criticism from rights groups who say many of its provisions are invasive and dilutes the 2014 judgement of the Supreme Court of India in the National Legal Services Authority v Union of India(NALSA judgement).
In the draft Bill introduced on July 19, 2019, the government provides a broad and inclusive definition of “transgender persons”, however, in so defining the government makes a clear distinction between identity-based recognition and that based on gender reassignment after a medical procedure.
The draft Bill ensures a family life for transgendered children, makes provision for psychological counselling and provides a statutory protection against any form of discrimination against transgender people. The draft Bill also proposes that the government will provide medical care including sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy to transgender people.
The draft Bill has removed the provision of the District Steering Committee for recognition of transgender persons’ identity as was provided in the 2016 version of the Draft Bill. Now only a District Magistrate will issue a gender identity-card to a transgender person.
The draft Bill also provides that in cases that involve a sex reassignment procedure, a certificate will be issued by the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital, be submitted, to the District Magistrate for revision of transgender person’s identity card.
This provision clearly violates the NALSAjudgement which granted the right to self-determination of gender. The Apex Court also stated that any instance of sex reassignment surgery for declaring one’s gender was immoral and illegal.
The draft Bill is also silent on the issue of reservations for transgender persons in educational institutes and public appointments despite the Supreme Court direction to consider transgender persons as socially and economically backwards.
Moreover, the draft Bill also takes over the legal right of the transgender people to contest the provisions before any court of law. Section 21 of the draft Bill provides that:
Section 21: Protection of action taken in good faith. –No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the appropriate Government or any local authority or any officer of the Government in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of the provisions of this Act and any rules made thereunder.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised concerns over the Transgender Bill saying the “proposed law to protect the rights of transgender people in India falls short of the country’s human rights obligations”.
“Transgender people in India should be able to live with dignity and non-discrimination, and have equal access to education, employment and health services” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch in a statement.