Parliament proceedings: Rajya Sabha sees demand for rethink of trans rights Bill

MPs propose 5% reservation for transgender persons in govt jobs, education

Several Rajya Sabha members on Wednesday demanded that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, which was introduced in the House, be referred to a select committee. They raised concern over the proposed certification process for a person to be declared transgender and the maximum two-year sentence for sexual assault of a trans person, among others.

The Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha on August 5, was tabled by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot. He said legislation had undergone extensive consultations. This, he said, was the second time the Bill had been tabled. It had been sent to a Parliamentary Standing Committee earlier and many of the recommendations from it had been included in the latest draft.

DMK member Tiruchi Siva moved an amendment asking for the Bill to be sent to a select committee. He had brought a private member’s Bill on trans persons’ rights that had been passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2015. During the discussion, many members said the Bill lacked some of the progressive aspects of Mr. Siva’s Bill.

M.V. Rajeev Gowda of the Congress said the Bill “contradicted” the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgment in the NALSA case, where the government was asked to make reservation for trans people in jobs. The Bill did not address this, he said. The court recognised the right to self-identification. The Bill, on the other hand, proposed a two-step process – first, a self-identification and second, a certification by the district magistrate, he said.

Shanta Chhetri of the All-India Trinamool Congress said the Bill fell short of protecting human rights. “The Bill clearly fails on the fundamental right to self-identification, as the Supreme Court had ruled. The biggest flaw is that it prescribes only six months to two years punishment for sexual assault of a transgender person,” she said, adding that it should be referred to a select committee.

Vijila Sathyananth of the AIADMK asked the government to include 5% reservation for transgender persons as well as setting up of fast-track courts.

Actor-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan of the Samajwadi Party said the Bill lacked the sensitivity needed. “Certification itself is discrimination, humiliation of a human being. What is the need to humiliate like this? Let the Bill for for revision, rethinking,” she said.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government should bring in legislation similar to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for transgender persons. The government should make reservation for trans persons.

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