One year after the apex court officially recognised transgenders as the “third gender”, the Rajya Sabha on Friday passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014. As per news reports, the Bill states that strict action must be taken against those who subject transgender persons to discrimination. The Bill also states that they should be given equal access and opportunity in terms of education, employment and skill development, besides provisions for proper healthcare services.
Finally, it also asks the government to treat them on par with any other backward community, which would require affirmative action on the government’s part. It is a rare moment in our legislative history, because it is the first private member’s bill to be passed in 46 years. It is, however, just more than that. Last year the Supreme Court had recognised the ‘third gender,’ which does not depend on medical examination or certification but on self-identification. It was a watershed moment in India’s march towards enshrining sexual and gender rights.
The verdict, which had given a legal stamp on the rights of transgenders and hijras, among others, had gone some way to ensuring equality and bring in a semblance of social parity for the traditionally discriminated sexual minorities. Evoking Articles 14 and 15 (equality and non-discrimination), 19 (fundamental freedoms) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution to argue that transgenders are entitled to every right that is provided by the government, the verdict had essentially made gender and sexual identity free of external markers and taxonomic repertoire, thus acknowledging the vagueness of gender and sexual expressions. Our legislature, thankfully, has responded in kind.
Although, it is yet to be passed through the Lok Sabha, the bi-partisan support it received in the Rajya Sabha does seem like a statement of intent. Despite earlier reservations, the present dispensation should back it. Let equality prevail. It’s the 21st century for heaven’s sake.