ON November 26, 2019, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha. The Bill had been passed by the Rajya Sabha in December 2018.

The Bill, far from protecting the rights of transgender persons, actually discriminates against them. It has been passed with total disregard for the concerns expressed by the Trans community about the impact of the Bill.

The Bill’s definition of transgender persons itself is flawed, seeing transgender persons as placed between fixed and binary identities of “male” and “female”, rather than recognising gender identity itself as fluid. It conflates intersex persons with transgender persons. By fixing definitions of transgender and intersex persons in biological terms, it denies these persons the right to self-identify their own gender.

Although the Bill nominally accepts the principle of right of all persons to self-determination of gender, it discriminates against transgender and intersex persons by requiring them to acquire certificates of their transgender identity from the District Magistrate. If they undergo a sex-change operation they are again required to get a certification of their gender identity from the DM. Why should transgender and intersex persons be required to acquire “certification” of their identity, and undergo “checks” of their gender identity which violate privacy, when other citizens do not? Why should they not be allowed to self-identify their gender and sex identities?

The Bill also imposes a narrow definition of “family” in terms of biological or adoptive family – delegitimising other living arrangements and relationships of transgender persons’ own choice. Especially in the case of transgender minors, this narrow definition can have dangerous consequences: forcing them to live with families that violently deny their identity and self-hood, and preventing them from being rescued by transgender communities.

Existing laws for sexual violence are gender-specific, excluding transgender and intersex persons. The Bill fixes far lower punishments for “sexual abuse” of transgender persons than those prevailing in the women-specific laws. It also fails to offer a satisfactory definition of various kinds of sexual violence. This provision denies transgender persons the right to equality.

The Bill’s list of prohibited discriminatory practices includes only generic sexist discrimination, and fails to recognise the specific kinds of discrimination and abuse aimed at transgender and intersex persons. These include forms of verbal abuse, bullying, harassment by police officials including extortion and demands for sex, as well as prevention from access to washrooms and other gender-specific facilities.

The Bill fails to offer reservations for transgender persons in education and employment. It also fails to mandate inclusive practices in workplaces – including gender-neutral bathrooms, and gender-neutral language in official communications.

CPIML demands that the President of India deny approval for the Bill, and instead send it back for amendments which address all the concerns expressed by the transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons.