The Delhi Commission for Women has openly slammed a controversial trans rights bill that entered India’s lower house last week.
Chairperson Swati Maliwal penned an open letter today(26 July) to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla expressing how the bill will do more harm than good for trans folk, reported ANI.
While campaigners pressured lawmakers to make crucial changes, ‘The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019’ has proven to be contentious among trans rights groups.
What was said?
The commission, a department of the Government of Delhi, examines all matters relating to the security of women.
Maliwal has written two letters concerning trans rights. This followed a meeting the department held to look into the experiences of trans people in India.
The first is a scathing letter about the trans rights bill, introduced by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
‘The DCW welcomes the move of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to introduce a bill for the protection of rights of transgender persons,’ the letter said.
‘However, the draft of the Bill was accessed by the Commission, has serious lacunas and lacks certain major aspects.
‘For instance, the penal provision for sexual assault against a transgender person is imprisonment for a period of minimum six months of maximum three years.
‘Only where for others, sexual assault is punishable by imprisonment for no less than seven years and maximum of life imprisonment.’
But this was not the only letter she wrote.
‘The immense stigma and trauma suffered by the community’
Moreover, Maliwal has written to the Delhi government. In the letter, she demands to know what hospitals provide gender-affirmation surgery for free and those that charge.
According to the New Indian Express, the chairperson said that the lack of and limited access to sponsored surgery is an all too common issue.
‘Considering the immense stigma and trauma suffered by the community,’ she wrote, ‘it is imperative that the choice of sex reassignment is readily available.
‘It is the duty of the state to provide for such basic necessity of a large but marginalised community.’
Trans Rights Bill: Background
India recognized trans as a third gender in a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2014. The ruling guaranteed them the fundamental rights enshrined in India’s constitution.
But trans people remain marginalized and at risk of abuse.
A bill to tackle this has been in the political pipeline since 2015.
However, last year, India’s Cabinet formally drafted the trans bill, which lawmakers in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house, passed in December.
According to a draft of the bill seen by the Lok Sabha, the bill aims ‘to provide for protection of rights of transgender persons and their welfare.’
But the trans community have labled it a ‘travesty of justice’ and a ‘burial of rights.’
For example, the legislation will force them to seek approval before a ‘screening committee’ before changing gender.
Moreover, the bill enshrines little to no protections to trans people in public spaces or in the workplace.
Why do trans groups oppose the bill?
Local trans and intersex group Sampoorna have pointed out several contentious clauses in the draft.
Such as how the bill ‘continues to conflate the intersex persons as transgender’ and how it is ‘silent’ on better education around trans issues.
Furthermore, the group take aim with how the bill will introduce ‘lesser punishments’ for those charged for transphobic hate crimes.
After pressure from groups such as Sampoorna, the Union Council of Ministers of India did remove some problematic provisions. But trans groups remain nervous.