December 10, 2017: This year ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ is being organized along with the ‘Transgender Day of Rage’! The Government of India has completely let down the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender queer, intersex, asexual and other queer (LGBTIQA) communities. Yet again!
‘Transgender Day of Rage’: Why are we angry?
In April 2014, the Honourable Supreme Court of India passed the internationally acclaimed NALSA verdict to recognize the citizenship rights of transgender and intersex people. Since then LGBTIQA groups and human rights activists were working with the government to implement the court’s directives through the passage of a comprehensive law in the Parliament.
But recently the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MSJE) went back on its word and proposed to table a Bill on transgender and intersex rights in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament that could actually harm the very communities it aims to protect.
The proposed Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 goes against not just the NALSA verdict but also the government’s own Parliamentary Standing Committee report! Most crucially, this Bill is wrong in its understanding of ‘transgender’ and ‘intersex’ persons and how they may be different. It defines transgender people based on their anatomical maleness or femaleness rather than self-defined gender identity.
The proposed Bill does not uphold the right to self-identify one’s gender, as assured by the apex court. Instead it proposes to set up District Screening Committees to ‘certify’ people as transgender. How can a committee decide if one is transgender or not, when international guidelines recommend self-determination of gender?
The Bill offers only token measures in the name of anti-discrimination, and criminalizes begging without offering other livelihood options to transgender / Hijra people. We must stop the passage of this Bill, which cannot be part of a democratic and inclusive society that India aspires to become. Please visit http://www.facebook.com/stopTGBill/ to know how you can help.
In October this year, the government voted against a UN resolution that condemned the death penalty for LGBTIQA people, a heinous practice that still continues in some countries. Though India itself does not prescribe such a penalty, the government’s negative vote effectively means India supports a barbaric violation of the right to life! Isn’t this a matter of shame?
Ray of hope
In August, the Supreme Court issued another landmark verdict on the Right to Privacy being a Fundamental Right. Though it was hearing on whether Aadhaar should be a mandatory identity document for access to social welfare benefits, the court linked the matter to larger concerns around a person’s right to privacy. In a pleasant surprise, the court also upheld the right to privacy and non-discrimination around sexual orientation. It questioned the validity of Section 377, IPC that penalizes non penile-vaginal sexual acts even among consenting adults, especially LGBTIQA people. This brightened hopes of a long-awaited repeal of Section 377.
Details about the ‘16th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’:
Please note: ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ follows a ‘no organizational banners / logos / advertisements’ policy. Everyone walks with a common banner. But do bring creative posters and slogans on different themes around human rights, especially on ‘protesting the discriminatory Bill on transgender and intersex rights’.
Date and starting time: December 10, 2017, 1.00 pm onwards
Route: From Deshapriya Park (starting point) till Park Circus Maidan (end point). There will be a ‘Transgender Day of Rage’ protest event at the starting point and a public meeting at the end point. Arrangements are being made to support the participation of people with disabilities, including escorts for wheelchair users and a sign language specialist.
For more information: Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Main artwork credit: Siddhartha Sankar – artwork shows graphic designed for the ongoing campaign against the Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016.