In 2019, the Union Cabinet passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act. While the very fact that it is a ‘rights protection act’ might make one feel that the bill is majorly in favor of the transgender community of the country; on the contrary it is a problematic act which is more regressive in nature than progressive. Protests and vocal dissent by members of the community has expressed their disappointment, ever since the act was in its initial stages.
The ongoing pandemic has hit the trans community in the country the worst, with lack of employment opportunities, non-supportive family conditions and lack of proper medical facilities. Most trans individuals are currently struggling to make ends meet. In the midst of the situation, the Union Cabinet released the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules to accompany the previously passed Act.
On 17th April 2020, the rules were released to explain how the law was supposed to be interpreted and enforced. Initially only a period of 13 days was given for suggestions and comments, yet after receiving much required outrage and disapproval the deadline was shifted to May 18th.
The biggest criticism to the Transgender Persons Act is how it goes against the NALSA judgement of 2014. The Act refuses to respect self- determination of gender Identity which was being maintained through NALSA judgment, instead it makes state interference through district level pre and post op checks a mandate. Apart from that, the act also refuses to acknowledge discrimination in educations and jobs, lack of support from families, inadequate medical assistance and crime against trans individuals.
The rules were brought out on July 13 and made no reference to any sort of reservations to protect the community from discrimination. In order to identify as a transgender citizen, the government now wants individuals to take permission from the District Magistrate. This process can take up to 12 months and require permanent residency proof of the district. Apart from that, the rules have made it a mandate for individuals to go through gender affirmation surgery and get a certificate from the local Chief Medical Officer if they want to identify as females but were not Assigned Females at Birth.
All these rules come into place ignoring the lack of proper medical provisions and the high costs involved in the process of gender affirmation surgery. It also ignores that many trans people face homelessness and eviction which makes the 12-month residency criteria another concern.
Apart from this, the rules barely look into the aspect of discrimination and crime against trans people and give no guidelines for any sort of protection mechanism that is needed.
Other issues that make these rules at this time extremely problematic is the timing and the scenario. A very small amount of members from the community could give their inputs since no gathering could be conducted at a large scale to discuss the rules and their negative repercussions. Besides, they have been updated only in English on the internet, hence making them inaccessible for those without a proper internet access or familiarity with English.
The Trans Persons Act is a regressive act in the guise of a protective one and does more harm than good for the trans community. In addition to this the rules just act as another reminder that the ones making this law barely want to address the concerns of the community that they are making this law for.