Right to Live with Dignity

In an unprecedented move, a Private Member’s Bill addressing the rights for transgenders was passed in the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament on Friday, 24th April 2015. Among other things, the Bill guarantees reservation in education, jobs, financial aid and social security. This is for the first time in almost last five decades that a Private Members' Bill has been passed by any House of the Parliament. Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, paves the way for a law on the matter in the near future. On behalf of the Government, The Finance Minister pointed out that the passing of the bill was akin to passing a resolution. The House was assured that the Government accepts the spirit and sentiment of the Bill and it would bring an updated Bill in the Lok Sabha in due course.

Of course this is not the end but just a beginning in the direction of protecting the Rights of the third gender. In the Indian Parliamentary history, the private member’s bills have been of little significance because they mostly serve as an opportunity for the members to highlight issues about which they have strong feelings or inclination. They have been debated and discussed in the past but reportedly not even a single bill has been passed in the Parliament during the last 45 years. Usually when the debate concludes, the Minister in-charge assures the member concerned that the Government would later move a comprehensive bill on the subject. Eventually, very few such issues actually see a day in the Parliament in the form of a bill with the backing of the Government.

Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex i.e. male or female, to which they were assigned at birth. Also there is no simple definition or explanation as to why some people are transgender. Many biological factors such as genetic factors, prenatal hormonal levels, early exposure and experiences as also experiences in adolescence and adulthood may individually or collectively contribute to the development of a transgender. But commonly in most cases they are abandoned, ignored and discriminated by the society and often by their own family. Also they are targets of hate crimes and discrimination which includes all from glances of disapproval to discomfort of invasive queries about their body parts.

Transgenders have been part of the Indian culture as well since ancient time.  One can find their mention in our mythology too, for illustration Shikhandi and Brihannalla of Mahabharat time, one can see them in day to day life as also on certain ceremonial occasions like marriage and child birth in any family. But the fact of life is that most of us in contemporary society tend to look down and ignore them as also their needs.

Incidentally, this development has occurred almost after one year of the Supreme Court creating ‘third gender status’ for the transgenders through a verdict directing the Federal Government to treat them as socially and economically backward like OBCs. Participating in the parliamentary debate during the passage of the bill, the Finance Minister clarified that the passage of a private member’s bill tantamount to ‘express a sentiment’  more like a resolution. He added that a bill has to be passed by both the houses to become a law and the Government is concerned about this segment of society with the concerned Minister working on it to put forth the official policy and bill soon. One can visualize a ray of hope for the transgenders for protection of rights and a dignified living with acceptance in the society in future ahead.

More By  :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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