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Just a day before ‘International Transgender Remembrance Day’, on 19 November 2017, a tragic news slashed in major news media demonstrating ‘lack of political will’ of the Government on responding to the Transgender Rights. Ministry of Social Welfare Justice and Empowerment (MOSJE) white washed the recommendations of Standing Committee Report on ‘The Rights of Transgender Bill 2016’, which was prepared after in depth consultations with the transgender community all across India.

Supreme Court NALSA Judgment in 2014, acknowledged transgender as ‘Third Gender’ for the first time in India. Progressive judgement paved the path for the region and it was followed in other common wealth countries. Some countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan also geared up on transgender movement. Despite of the progressive judiciary, the Government failed to respond to the community needs and established one-sided Transgender Bill in 2016 which was dismissed by all transgender community activists, institutions and organisations. Standing Committee worked hard to regain this faith and prepared report which was balanced and was appreciated by the community representatives. There was optimism that the recommendations of the report will be considered to make Transgender Bill more responsive and inclusive to the needs of the community.

India reports more than 19 lakh transgender population1 living in precarious socio-economic conditions. Transgender community in India and across globe is extremely marginalised. There is little awareness among stakeholders and policy makers around real issues of transgenders and willingness to demonstrate leadership to address them.

Transphobic and non-inclusive transgender policies such as Right of Transgender Bill 2017, can have adverse ripple effect on the community wellbeing. Integrated Behavioural and Biological Survey (IBBS) of 2014-15 reports (including 4966 Transgender and hijras samples from 11 states) alarming facts; single largest main occupation reported was sex work or begging, 84% of respondents reported disrespectfully within their own families, 62% reported facing stigma at health care facilities and overall HIV prevalence reported was 7.5%. These are just facts on paper, however, the situation at the field level are more extreme. Every day cases are being reported by the community on atrocities meted out on transgenders, including murders, exploitation, verbal, psychological and physical abuse. Judiciary systems and law enforcement fails to provide protection and safety to the community which leads to low living aspirations and huge mental distress.

As we sail through this International Transgender Remembrance Day, we salute our Trans friends who fought tirelessly throughout their lives against transphobia, discrimination, violence, suppression of rights and lack of health care. Indian transgender community today express a huge disappointment on the Government of India, to miss a crucial opportunity to make The Rights of Transgender Bill 2016 more trans-friendly and inclusive.

India HIV/AIDS Alliance is working closely with National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) to address transgender violence, wellbeing and welfare while providing crucial HIV services in several states of India. At the recent national flagship event of Alliance India called ‘National Hijra Habba’ the community expressed an urgent need to increase legal awareness on transgender bill 2016 among the transgender people in districts and state. Also, expressed that there is an urgent need for resources on transgender policy advocacy efforts across India.

One transgender activist from our programme Wajood (meaning acknowledgement in Indian language) expressed, “Transgender and hijra community across years have been neglected for services, welfare and dignity – Trans Rights are Human Rights!”

1- UNDP Transgender mapping study 2012

The author of this blog is Sylvester Merchant- Advocacy Officer: Gender, Sexuality and Rights

Alliance India