India: Transgender citizens “integral part of India” that may have been shortchanged by its parliament

“Transgenders are an abhinn ang (integral part) of our society,” said India’s minister of state for social justice and empowerment, Krishan Pal Gurjar, while introducing the controversial Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, on Aug. 5. Home minister Amit Shah had used the same words to describe Jammu & Kashmir while introducing radical provisions in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, to make the region an “integral part” of India.

The passage of a landmark bill protecting the rights of an “integral part” of society was expected to involve hours of nuanced debate. Instead, the Transgender Rights Bill was passed in a couple of hours. The rhetoric of nationalism was used to quell protests by those whom the Bill seeks to represent—like the transgender activist Grace Banu, who marked the day as “Gender Justice Murder Day.”

Of the 22 members of parliament (MPs) who discussed the bill, 15 belonged to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its allies. The suggestions and amendments moved by the other seven MPs were merely ignored.

All of this seems to suggest that the push for transgender rights by the government was never about empowering the 440,000 transgender Indians, but a publicity stunt to showcase inclusive nationalism to the world at large.

Ever since the government made its version of the Transgender Rights Bill public in August 2016, the legislation has met with vociferous protests from the transgender community.

The 2016 bill problematically defined transgender individuals as “neither wholly female nor male” and went as far as to require transpersons to appear before a screening committee that would determine their gender identity. Moreover, that bill criminalised begging, which not only forms a part of the trans culture in South Asia but is also the only means of survival available to the vast majority of transgender people abandoned by their families. Read more via Quartz India