To the Prime Minister and the leader of the Central Government of India, Mr. Narendra Modi,
It gives us pleasure that the Central Government, under your leadership, has introduced a special bill for the protection of people like us – transgender persons – in the parliament, especially given that in this, the early years of the 21st Century, most democratic nations do not take responsibility to improve the lives and livelihoods of those who do not conform to the binary standards of gender.
There are three issues that are important milestones in the history of struggle that the transgender community faced on the path to humanity, precede the introduction of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) 2016 bill; and even form the basis of the bill. However, when we look at this TG 2016 bill and juxtapose it against the three points, I feel that we the transgender persons are surely, violently, and severely cheated of our rights.
In 2013, the transgender community came out united, vocally demanding for our rights as citizens of this nation, and demanded reservation for transgender persons in education, in employment. In Tamil Nadu, I too fought for the rights of my fellow trans brothers and sisters, even as I was attacked by the police, and even being arrested many times.
Secondly, we approached the Supreme Court to seek recourse for our community which was often oppressed by the government and its many agents and arms. Although the representatives of the people in the government couldn’t understand our pain and sorrow, the Supreme Court did, and gave members of our transgender community hope and reservation in the fields of education and employment, and provided us freedom in the form of the April 15, 2014 (NALSA) verdict.
Thirdly, Mr. Tiruchi Siva hailing from Tamil Nadu, took in the import of the NALSA verdict of the Supreme Court, and understanding both its spirit and its full and exact intention, introduced a Private Members’ bill in the Rajya Sabha to protect and safeguard the rights of transgender persons. That bill was unanimously passed, without any opposition or amendments whatsoever, by all the representatives from all across the country
But the bill (TG Bill 2016) that has been tabled in the Lok Sabha, by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, has completely ignored, and discarded these three points mentioned above, points that we the transgender community believe have enabled us to gain the rights assured to citizens of India.
I read the entire text of the bill tabled by your government. I noted that the demands of our community, the nuanced and empowering judgement of the supreme court, and the well-intentioned provisions of Tiruchi Siva’s bills have been wantonly discarded by those drafting the bill; this caused a serious mental agony and hurt to me.
The bill deems us humans, and grants us our humanity. I have but to laugh at this condescension. For a nation that opposed oppression and resisted the dehumanizing acts of colonial powers, and for a democracy that was born out of the blood of the people, it has taken 69 years to look at us as humans. How much longer will we have to wait for our rights? How much longer will it take for our demands for reservation and affirmation to be heard? When I contemplated this, the pain and sadness in my heart was expressed as a wry smile on my face. I offer this smile as a gift to your government.
The wise words of Dr. B.R Ambedkar – the father of our constitution and champion of the under privileged – rang in my ears when I read the provisions of the TG 2016 Bill. Babasaheb said, “to make horse with a broken leg compete with a healthy horse is a cruel injustice…” I gift you his words. For this bill perpetrates exactly that cruel injustice, it is an act of violence on the transgender community.
We were treated as animals by society. Your government, in this the 21st century, recognized us as humans. Our thanks for that.
But grant us our full and just rights. Give us our dignity, and ensure our participation in education, employment and in governing ourselves, give us the reservations we ask for. Then the transgender community will happily, willingly gift you our carefree, just, genuine smiles and laughter. Allow us to smile, do not make us cry for rights again!
This post is also available in: தமிழ் (Tamil)