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Transgender protest at bill definition

Hundreds of transgender people gathered here on Sunday to criticise the NDA government's proposed definition of their gender as too similar to the Hindu concept of Ardhanarishwara in its over-reliance on physical attributes.

Our Special Correspondent   |     |   Published 18.12.17, 12:00 AM

New Delhi: Hundreds of transgender people gathered here on Sunday to criticise the NDA government's proposed definition of their gender as too similar to the Hindu concept of Ardhanarishwara in its over-reliance on physical attributes.

They demanded that self-declaration and not medical screening be the accepted mode of gender identification.

The transgender community sees itself as people whose gender identity (self-identification as man or woman or neither or both) runs counter to the gender assigned to them by others based on their physical attributes.

But a bill likely to be discussed in the Lok Sabha this week says that "a transgender person means a person who is (A) neither wholly female nor wholly male or (B) a combination of female or male or (C) neither female nor male...."

It adds that whether a person is transgender is to be decided by a screening committee set up by the district magistrate.

Grace Banu, organiser of the protest by nearly 500 members of the Federation of Trans and Intersex Associations, said the existing definition in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was problematic.

"It's similar to the Ardhanarishwara (a half-male, half-female combination of Shiva and his consort Parvati) concept in the Hindu tradition, and will exclude many genuine transgender people," Banu said.

She said "transgender" should be defined as "a person whose gender does not match the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-men and trans-women whether or not they have undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy".

Banu claimed a Supreme Court judgment had in 2014 said that self-declaration should be the mode for gender identification.

"Any procedure for identification of a transgender person that is likely to involve a medical, biological or mental assessment would violate that right," she said.

Banu also opposed the bill's provision for punishing people who compel a transgender person to beg for a living.

She said this clause could be misused to target the elders in a transgender community whereas those really deserving of punishment are the families that ostracise or expel their transgender members, forcing them to beg on the streets.

The protesters criticised the two-year jail term the bill prescribes for violence -physical, sexual and emotional - against transgender people. They said the punishment should be commensurate with that prescribed for similar offences: for instance, rape attracts a life term.

Banu said transgender delegations would visit Opposition MPs with their demands.

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