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#IndiaUnites for #GenderRights
February 5, 2019 @ 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Withdraw the Transgender Bill, 2018
The Government of India’s Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 which was passed on 17th December 2018 in the Lok Sabha should be more appropriately retitled the Transgender Persons (Violation of Rights) Bill, since it violates more rights than it protects. The version of the Bill passed upholds criminalization of trans people for organized begging, while denying any opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, etc. via reservation. It upholds lighter consequences and penalties for discrimination and assault on trans people compared to cisgender people. It violates the constitutional rights of transgender persons to live where we please, stating that even as adults with the right to free movement and association, we must either stay with our parents or approach a court.
The amended Bill is the latest in a series of Bills drafted after the landmark Supreme Court verdict in National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India (NALSA, 2014). It has completely ignored the critiques of the 2016 Bill, and subsequent recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee. It stands in stark violation of the fundamental rights of transgender persons enshrined in the Constitution as equal citizens, judgement of the Apex Court in NALSA vs UoI in 2014. For example, the amended Bill has created a two-tier system within the transgender community, wherein persons who have not had sex reassignment surgery (SRS) can only identify as transgender and not as male or female, and the identification as transgender depends on scrutiny and certification by a District Screening Committee; those seeking to identify as male or female need to have had SRS. This is completely contrary to the NALSA verdict. We note here that the concept of a District Screening Committee that seeks to validate the ‘authenticity’ of a transgender person’s identity is not only completely against the letter and spirit of NALSA, but also provides immense scope for abuse. It has been noted in Tamil Nadu that the district screening committees result in individuals being physically groped for “evidence” that they are transgender, a clear case of human rights violations.
It may be noted that on the same issue, in 2015, the Rajya Sabha passed the comparatively more
progressive Private Member’s Bill drafted by Tiruchi Siva, DMK member of the Rajya Sabha,
which had been drawn up in consultation with the community, and which has since then been pending before the Lok Sabha. Tiruchi Siva’s bill had several progressive positions such as reservation rights, employment and education opportunities, right to self determination, special courts, a Transgender Rights Commission and more.
We demand that the government withdraw the Transgender Persons (Protection of
Rights) Bill, 2018, from consideration in the Rajya Sabha and instead pass the Private Member’s Bill drafted by Tiruchi Siva in the Lok Sabha.
Revive and pass the Women’s Reservation Bill
No government has shown the political will to fulfill its promise of reservations for women, thus denying them their democratic right to political representation in Parliament and state assemblies. The number of women in the current Lok Sabha is 64, which is only 11.4 per cent and in state assemblies it is only around 10 per cent.
The Women’s Reservation Bill, reserving 33 per cent seats for women has the dubious distinction of being the longest pending bill awaiting a nod from Parliament. It was first introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996, by the United Front Government under H D Deve Gowda. It was re-introduced in 1998, when the NDA Government under Vajpayee was in power. But the deep patriarchal mindsets at different levels of hierarchies of the bourgeois parties vehemently opposed the bill.
The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by the UPA government under Manmohan Singh in 2008. It was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee which submitted its report in December 2009 after a nationwide debate. The bill was finally placed before and passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 9, 2010. Joy and happiness erupted amongst large sections of the people, especially women, who had been fighting for the passage of this bill for years. Unfortunately this joy was short-lived. The bill never reached the Lok Sabha and lapsed following the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014. Since then it has been lying in cold storage.
Around 10 lakh women who have been elected to local bodies after the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments in 1993 have shown tremendous capabilities in performing their tasks. Most of the states have increased the reservation quota for women in local bodies to 50 per cent. Women who have been elected to local bodies have courageously defied and overcome all attempts to browbeat, scare and intimidate them. There have been instances of women being subjected to humiliation by vested interests. Despite several stumbling blocks, women have generally performed well despite all the constraints that they face.
Despite this creditable performance of women in local bodies, the patriarchal and feudal outlook has always raised its ugly head to deny equal rights to women. We demand the revival, and passage, of the Women’s Reservation Bill at the earliest.
Women Demand Freedom from Violence, Fear, Hunger and Unemployment
The last four years have inflicted on the women of this country a nightmarish world of violence, fear, hunger and unemployment, which we vehemently oppose. There has been an alarming increase in violence and brutality against women, especially girl children, threatened food security, the grim spectre of starvation and malnutrition, rising unemployment, and escalating communal and casteist attacks.
Crimes against women and children have increased by 34% in the past four years. According to NCRB figures (available only till 2016) 6.68 lakh cases of violence against women were recorded by the police across the country in 2015 and 2016 together. These include rapes and gang rapes, kidnappings, assaults, domestic violence, dowry killings, and other crimes. These numbers are staggering – translating into about 915 cases every day or nearly 40 incidents every hour.Cases of violence against children that are pending in courts have risen to an all-time high of over 2 lakh. And conviction rates for all crimes against women were just 19% and for rape only 25%. That means one in four rapists are getting away scot free! Since many cases are not even reported, or registered by the police, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
We demand reforms in the criminal justice system to ensure time bound trial and certainty of punishment for the guilty. This rally demands that women’s constitutional rights and liberties should be safeguarded by the state, including her right to choose her own partner. A comprehensive law to tackle honour crimes is an urgent necessity.