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Raina Roy.

(Photo: The Quint/Suryatapa Mukherjee)

In Pics: Activists Decry Trans Bill, Call it a Step Backward

“After this bill, Modi ji should also be checked to ensure if he is ‘definitely a man’ or ‘definitely a woman’.”

7 min read

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018, was passed in the Lok Sabha on 17 December. On 28 December, Jantar Mantar in Delhi witnessed transgender activists from across the country observe a ‘National Day of Rage.’ Their demand being that this bill not be introduced in the Rajya Sabha and instead be referred to a Select Committee in the Upper House. Despite its name, the bill does not protect but actually violates the rights of the transgender community, they say.

According to the proposed law, transgender people would be ‘inspected’ to confirm that they are indeed transgender. It also makes gender affirmation surgery or sex reassignment surgery compulsory for those who identify as transgender. Begging would be criminalised although no reservations are provided in work and education for transgender people. Moreover, if transgender people are disowned by their families, they would be sent to rehab.

“We are here because of the recently passed (in Lok Sabha) Transgender Persons Bill, 2018, which is extremely bad. The government is trying to show that they are protecting us. But in the name of protection, they are trying to abolish us and again criminalise us. So, we will never let this become law. We know how to fight till the end.”
Raina Roy, a transgender activist and one of founders of Amra Odbhuth, a queer cafe in Kolkata
“The Bill is very discriminatory and is criminalising different portions of the community. So, we are demanding civil rights from the government rather than criminalising traditions of the hijra gharana.”
Aparna Banerjee, Hijra activist, West Bengal Transgender Development Association
“I identify as queer, both the noun and the adjective. I’m here to stop the Transgender Persons Bill, 2018. You know, the transgender people have played a huge role in the anti-Section 377 movement. And this bill is also about self-determining my gender which means it’s for me. So, I am here in solidarity.”
Debolina Dey
“As a cisgender man, people like me should really be the first to show up at a protest like this but should also be the people to shut up and listen because this is a space for us to learn, to support protests by other communities. Because it all comes back to everybody. All the rights violations, that we’re seeing, are connected. That’s an important thing to recognise.”
“Basically, everyone is being denied the right to self-determination. It is not just about the transgender community. When the government decides who can speak as what and who will be counted not in their language as what they are, then it’s a violation of all of us. This government has been doing that for various people. With the transgender community, they are basically saying that a group of experts, precisely the people who violate us in the most intimate ways  – counselors, doctors, etc – will decide who is trans and who is not. It’s a basic attack on democracy, fundamentally.”
Vikramaditya, Independent researcher on gender and sexuality
“My personal experiences don’t really count much because I am a very privileged person. I’m here because you enter a race and you’re already told that you’re going to come ‘third’ – transgender people are born and live their entire lives knowing that is their position in the course of things. That is why I think everyone is here, because my community is always ‘third’.”
Subham, Visual artist and graphic designer
“It’s an extremely draconian bill that basically ignores all the suggestions and work done by the transgender community over the past three years on this bill. All of those suggestions were replaced by the Lok Sabha’s own version and passed in a big hurry. And those provisions of the bill that are supposedly for the protection of transgender people’s rights, actually violate a lot of our rights.”
Rushaan Kumar, Assistant professor of Feminist and Gender Studies at Colorado College 
“We do not like this bill. Our own rights are being snatched away by these people. This bill has to be removed. Please withdraw the bill! Stop Transgender Persons Bill!”
Hemba, President, Empowering Trans Ability, Manipur
“We want Tiruchi Siva’s bill. We want the NALSA judgment. We want what the Supreme Court said. Now, we are fighting to stop this bill. We do not want a screening committee. My life started after I left my family, so why is this bill against that? Why can’t we beg? Why is it invading our sexuality and our bodies? This bill needs to be scrapped.”
Kiran Naik, a transgender, disability and Adivasi activist from Karnataka and Telangana
“According to this bill, transgender people cannot identify themselves as transgender men or women. They must go to a doctor or psychiatrist who will remove their clothes completely and identify them as just transgender – not man or woman. Then they must undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) after which they can identify as a man or a woman. This surgery would cost about ten lakhs. Now they are banning transgender people from begging without providing the right employment. Who wants to beg if there are alternatives?” 
Nasreen Banu
“There are ‘n’ number of engineers and degree holders among transgender people but they are still begging. They can have ID with their correct gender. But they cannot change the gender on their school or college certificates easily. Their teachers and lecturers will ask them thousands of questions. They will not help out. So they can’t find employment.”
Nasreen Banu
“I was pursuing my BEd in Special Education in a college in Chennai. My lecturers forced me to discontinue my education just because I am the wife of a transgender man. My life has been spoiled. Even as a cisgender woman married to a transgender man, I am facing all of this. So, think what trans people are facing.”
Nasreen Banu
“The government cannot be against the politics of minorities. If it is so, I take objection to that. Let’s please talk about inclusive politics of the nation which is what the Indian democracy stood for. Transgender people matter in society and our lives also matter so much. The bill must be deferred to the Select Committee, which should function in a democratic way. If not, I reject the bill.”
Dr Akkai Padmashali, Founder, Ondede organisation. 
“Even without the screening committee, already we have to take off our clothes when we go to see a doctor to take hormones. We ask our doctors the same question, why are you making me take off my clothes? Why should only our identity be tested? Cisgender people’s identity should be too. After this bill, Modiji should also be checked to ensure if he is ‘definitely a man’ or ‘definitely a woman’.”
Christy Raj, Media Out
“It feels like this bill is being used to make up for Sec 377. On one hand, you have given us freedom. On the other hand, you are trapping us. So, you want to kill us before you leave. Even banning begging – whom will it affect? Demonetisation, GST – they are all affecting the working class. Will banning begging affect the upper classes?”
Christy Raj
“We opposed the bill from the beginning and submitted suggestions and demands to the BJP government. We met Standing Committee MPs. Standing Committee also gave their recommendations. This government declined all recommendations. This shows that the BJP government constantly oppresses minority groups such as trans, Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim. Please then openly say you do not want us to live in this country. Announce us as refugees.”
Grace Banu, Founder and Director, Trans Rights Now Collective and India’s first transgender engineer

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