Transgender activists protest in Guwahati Credit: EastMojo

Guwahati: A group of activists from the transgender community in Guwahati on Friday protested against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 17. The activists termed the Bill, which is now awaiting ratification in the Rajya Sabha, oppressive and as against the interests of the LGBTQ community as a whole.

Activists alleged that the Bill takes away the right to self-identification as “a committee will be deciding a particular person’s gender”. Speaking about the right to self-identification, Nuzhat Nasreen Islam, a law student and an LGBTQ activist, said, “According to the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) 2104 judgment, right to self-identification is a right. Then why the need for a rehabilitation centre?”

“If you have already declared your gender, then what is the point of sending someone to rehabilitation? You send someone to rehabilitation to fix something; if something is not wrong, then why send someone to a rehabilitation centre?” Islam asked.

Furthermore, the protesters said that the Bill would abolish the choice of home for the transgender community. Gulshan, a student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said, “Many people run away from their parental home because of discrimination. In such cases, the person generally takes shelter at ‘gharanas’. But if the Bill passes, then these people will be sent back to their families. Now, the problem is that many families don’t want to have their transgender child and, according to the Bill, if someone immediate in family cannot take care of the person, then that person will be sent to rehabilitation. This means transgender persons cannot stay at their homes.”

The controversial Bill also has provision where it says that to avail themselves of an identity card, a person has to go through a tedious process. First the person has to apply for the identity card from a district magistrate and then a screening committee would review the application.

The Bill has been criticised for suggesting ‘correctional surgery’. The activists said that the Bill again discriminates as one belonging to transgender community would have to undergo surgery to identify as men or women.

The Bill, which was first introduced in Parliament in 2016, drew flak in the past and had to make 27 changes before it was brought again in Lok Sabha, where it was passed on December 17. However, the Bill, in its current form, also has been criticised and the LGBTQ community across the country has been demanding the government to “either review it or scrap it”.

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