Recently I had gone to Mumbai to conduct a two day workshop on Right to Information Act (RTI) for the transgender community leaders. More than two dozen participants had come to attend this training programme from almost 12 states of India. When I, and my colleague Dr Rouf had just begun the workshop, many participants started asking us questions and were eager to know how to seek information on non-implementation of the various provisions of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 also known as TG Act. The law has been enacted in 2019 and its rules formulated in 2020, but unfortunately this legislation isn’t being enforced on the ground and the transgender community leaders seemed much concerned about it. They were eager to make use of RTI to make the Govt answerable vis a vis TG Act and its rules. As a long time RTI campaigner, I felt elated to see the enthusiasm among the participants who kept asking questions to me and my colleague on various aspects of RTI and its operation. RTI is a powerful tool that empowers every citizen and when we give this power to disadvantaged communities they feel really empowered and this I witnessed during the two days workshop in Mumbai.
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India while disposing off the petition titled National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) v/s Union of India passed a historic judgement on Transgender Rights on April 15, 2014. The Supreme Court Justice K S Radhakrishnan in his judgement said that recognition of transgenders was not a social or medical issue but was a human rights issue. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 19, 2019 by the Minister for Social Justice. This became a law on December on 5th December 2019 when the President of India gave his assent to the bill. In exercise of the powers conferred by section 22 of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 the Central Government on 25th September 2020 made rules for this law so that the act could be enforced on the ground.
TG Act & Rules highlights
The preamble of the act says that Transgender Act 2019 is to provide for protection of rights of transgender persons and their welfare and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto. Section 3 of TG Act reads as:
“No person or establishment shall discriminate against a transgender person on any of the following grounds, namely:
a) The denial, or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment in, educational establishments and services thereof;
b) The unfair treatment in, or in relation to, employment or occupation
c) The denial of, or termination from, employment or occupation
d) The denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment in, healthcare services
e) The denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment with regard to, access to, or provision or enjoyment or use of any goods, accommodation, service, facility, benefit, privilege or opportunity dedicated to the use of the general public or customarily available to the public
f) The denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment with regard to the right of movement
g) The denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment with regard to the right to reside, purchase, rent, or otherwise occupy any property
h) The denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment in, the opportunity to stand for or hold public or private office
i) The denial of access to, removal from, or unfair treatment in, Government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person may be.
According to the section 4 of TG Act, a transgender person shall have a right to be recognised as such. A person recognised as transgender under sub-section (1) shall have a right to self-perceived gender identity. As per section 5 of this act a transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for issuing a certificate of identity as a transgender person, in such form and manner, and accompanied with such documents, as may be prescribed. The Rule 4 of TG Act says that District Magistrate shall, subject to the correctness of the applicant’s particulars, get the application processed based on the affidavit submitted declaring the gender identity of any person in Form- 2, without any medical or physical examination, and thereafter issue an identification number to the applicant, which may be quoted as proof of application
TG Identity Card
Rule 5 says that District Magistrate shall, subject to the correctness of the applicant’s particulars, get the application processed based on the affidavit submitted declaring the gender identity of any person in Form- 2, without any medical or physical examination, and thereafter issue an identification number to the applicant, which may be quoted as proof of application
The said certificate of identity (identity card) has been issued within thirty days of receipt of duly filled in application along with the affidavit, but I was told by all the participants during the Mumbai workshop that it takes more than a year to get the TG Identity Card? The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated a National level umbrella scheme namely “SMILE - Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”, which includes two sub-schemes- ‘Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons’ and ‘Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’. This umbrella scheme covers several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for both transgender persons and persons who are engaged in the act of begging with focus extensively on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, education, skill development, economic linkages etc with the support of State Governments/UTs/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and institutions and others. The transgenders can also apply for their identity cards through this portal https://transgender.dosje.gov.in/
TG Welfare Board
As per TG Act 2019 rules , the Government is supposed to constitute a welfare board for transgender’s in every state and Union Territory (UT). The Transgender Welfare Board (TG Board) is supposed to act as a bridge between the Govt and the TG community by creating awareness about the TG Act and ensure implementation of this legalislation in letter and spirit. Rule 10 (1) of TG Act 2019 reads as:
“The appropriate Govt shall constitute a welfare board for the transgender persons for the purpose of protecting their rights and interests of, and facilitating access to schemes and welfare measures framed by the Government. The appropriate Government shall review all existing educational, social security, health schemes, welfare measures, vocational training and self-employment schemes to include transgender persons to protect their rights and interests and facilitate their access to such schemes and welfare measures framed by that Government”
Transgender persons face different forms of violence, harassment and discrimination both at home and in public spaces. Mumbai based Humsafar Trust (NGO) which has been working for this community from last 28 years conducted a study some years back titled, “Situation and Needs Assessment of Transgender People in Three Major Cities in India,”. The study was carried out in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, over the period between June 2017 and March 2018, found that around 59 % of respondents in the transgender community had experienced violence: 57 percent in Delhi, 55 percent in Mumbai, and 70 percent in Bangalore. The study revealed that even their own relatives had committed violence (22 % cases) followed by the common public, which is responsible for 21 percent of the cases of violence committed against transgender people. The violence and mocking at transgenders in Kashmir is also not uncommon. They continue to be discriminated against in our society. Even there is meager awareness about the TG Act and Govt isn’t taking enough steps to reach out to this community in J&K. I urge Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, Chief Secretary, Dr A K Mehta and Principal Secretary Social Welfare Department Ms Sheetal Nanda to ensure implementation of TG Act and its rules so that this community feels empowered. I also appeal that Transgender Welfare Board be constituted in J&K as soon as possible.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.