Around 80 activists and experts representing 32 organisations from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka working on the Rights of Children and Rights of Women came together for a South India consultation organised by Sangama, ReachLaw, Aneka and South Asia Human Rights Association (SAHRA). It also included 27 community-based organisations for sexual and gender minorities

The consultation, anchored by Sangama welcomed the efforts of the Union Government in coming up with the law relating to the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill 2015. The organisations discussed and presented recommendations on the bill put up for comments by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on its website.

“The Bill is silent on right to inheritance of property, housing rights, right to adoption, right to marriage, political and electoral rights and these are important issues that cannot be left out,” said Rajesh Umadevi, Director, Sangama.

“We demand that 1 per cent of the funds should be earmarked for transgender communities similar to 3 per cent for Persons with Disabilities (PWD) and the sub-plans SCP for SCs and TSP for STs. The component of housing is completely missing in the bill and we demand housing schemes and land grants to be included,” said Manohar Elavarthi of Swaraj Abhiyan.

“The bill should also include the concerns of intersex people in all sections of the bill. The definition of transgender person should also include Kothis, Jogappas, Shivashakthis and other such identities across India,” he added.

“It is important before we embark on bringing in a law of nature. It is pertinent to note that the judgment of the Supreme Court in NALSA case clearly emphasizes a national policy in respect of the rights of the transgender persons. The organisations feel there is a requirement of a national policy first before bringing in the proposed bill,” said eminent lawyer, BT Venkatesh of ReachLaw.

“We feel the time for response to the said bill was too short and hence we had sincerely requested for extension of time for the response on this bill. There are a number of organisations that are working on the issues of protection of sexual rights and minorities that include transgender communities in India whose voices should also hear,” said Nisha Gulur, a transgender who is working with Sangama as advocacy officer.

“We have conducted consultations with Child Rights Groups, Women Rights Groups and a number of organisations in South India in respect of the proposed bill and there is a requirement that Union Government should come up with detailed consultations with affected communities and call for the organisations that are working on rights of transgender communities,” said Christy, a transgender, and Advocacy Associate of Sangama.

The recommendations, gaps and demands were presented to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The consultation demanded the Ministry to extend the time for discussions on the bill and to initiate a process for bringing up a National Policy on Rights of Sexual Minority Communities or Transgender communities before presenting the above bill to the both Houses of Parliament.

Major demands:  

  • The bill needs to speak on right to inheritance of property, housing rights, right to adoption, right to marriage, political and electoral rights and also the Personal law amendments.
  • Right to housing should be included, housing plots should be provided.
  • Sensitisation of doctors, nurses, medical professionals, police, Anganwadis, SHGs, child welfare committees, Juvenile Justice boards, orphanages, adoption centres, observation homes, special      homes, childcare service providers, all government departments, judiciary, Primary Health Centres
  • Safety for Transgenders and InterSex persons in prisons
  • Agricultural land and irrigation facilities, land grants
  • A Legal Aid Authority to provide assistance to transgenders facing problems/harassment without prejudice. Effective steps by the police department to prevent transgenders into forced marriages.
  • Include Transgenders and Intersex person issues in school, college, health, mental health curriculum
  • The document, research and promote Transgenders and InterSex cultural forms/practices
  • Transgender taskforce to monitor the functioning of all departments in the implementation of the Act
  • Appoint Transgender Facilitators to enable transgenders to access schemes
  • Crisis intervention and support, community counselling and 24×7 helpline similar to child-line at the district level
  • Creation of Transgender Commissions at the national and state levels which should be an independent body with judicial powers similar to Election Commission.