THE WAY WE ARE

The trans­gen­der bill is a boost for the com­mu­nity, but con­cerns re­main

India Today - - STATES - By Ma­hesh Sharma

Meera Parida, the cur­rent ma­haman­dalesh­war of the Kin­nar Akhara, has come a long way from the shy child she was while grow­ing up in Be­gu­nia in Khorda dis­trict of Odisha. She is now a trans­gen­der leader, so­cial ac­tivist and, as of April this year, the vice-pres­i­dent of the women’s wing of the rul­ing Biju Janata Dal (BJD). “Pol­i­tics can be a ma­jor plat­form for so­cial ser­vice,” says Parida. “Through it, we can now bet­ter serve the com­mu­nity as well as other peo­ple. Chief Min­is­ter Naveen Pat­naik is my idol. He gave me mem­ber­ship and a po­si­tion in the party, he has opened the way to progress.”

The pass­ing of the Trans­gen­der Per­sons (Pro­tec­tion of Rights) Bill, 2019 by the Lok Sabha on Au­gust 5 was cause for cel­e­bra­tion for Parida and her com­mu­nity. As soon as the bill was ap­proved, they con­vened a meet­ing in Bhubaneswa­r to dis­cuss its pro­vi­sions. Parida was also part of the del­e­ga­tion that met Union so­cial jus­tice min­is­ter

Thaawarc­hand Gehlot to give their sug­ges­tions on the bill.

The bill, apart from defin­ing the phrase ‘trans­gen­der per­son’ and pro­hibit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, also gives transgende­rs the right to a ‘self-per­ceived’ gen­der iden­tity. A Na­tional Coun­cil for Trans­gen­der (NCT) per­sons will be formed to ex­er­cise the pro­vi­sions of the bill.

“With this bill, the govern­ment has given a ne­glected com­mu­nity a bet­ter chance at life. It takes us one step closer to an egal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety,” says Ja­gadananda, founder of the NGO, Cen­tre for Youth and So­cial De­vel­op­ment (CYSD), in Bhubaneswa­r. He feels Odisha has done well in fur­ther­ing the com­mu­nity’s cause. “The Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) even had a eu­nuch, Ka­jal Kin­nar Nayak, as its can­di­date in the Korei assem­bly con­stituency. All this in­di­cates that so­ci­ety has started ac­cept­ing them.”

But the bill has its share of crit­ics too. A sec­tion of trans­gen­der ac­tivists says it is more of a pub­lic­ity stunt by the rul­ing BJP at the Cen­tre, an at­tempt to ap­pear in­clu­sive rather than ac­tu­ally em­power the com­mu­nity. They point out that of the 22 mem­bers who dis­cussed the bill, 15 were from the BJP or its al­lies. The re­main­ing seven, who sug­gested amend­ments, were largely ig­nored. The bill is now pend­ing in the Ra­jya Sabha, where the BJP does not have a ma­jor­ity.

Com­mu­nity life has al­ways been im­por­tant for transgende­rs, which is why some are protest­ing a pro­vi­sion in the bill that says while ev­ery trans­gen­der has the right to re­side in the house­hold of a par­ent/ im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber and not be dis­crim­i­nated against, in case such guardians are un­avail­able, “the com­pe­tent court shall di­rect such per­son to be placed in a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre”. This sounds more like a threat, it’s like say­ing they will be sent to jail, they say.

Most of the eu­nuchs in Bhubaneswa­r mi­grated here from ru­ral ar­eas to find com­mu­nity and es­cape ha­rass­ment. The bill also crim­i­nalises the act of beg­ging, show­cas­ing the govern­ment’s ig­no­rance about cul­tural prac­tices like bad­hai and mangti within the com­mu­nity. This is es­pe­cially un­fair since trans­peo­ple still face dis­crim­i­na­tion as far as em­ploy­ment and ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties are con­sid­ered.

CRIT­ICS OF THE BILL SAY IT IS MORE A BJP PUB­LIC­ITY STUNT THAN AN AT­TEMPT TO EM­POWER THE TRANSGENDE­RS

TWO CHEERS Trans­gen­der ac­tivists from Odisha with Meera Parida (seated, third from right) af­ter the LS passed the bill

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