Rajya Sabha endorses equal rights for transgenders

Rajya Sabha endorses equal rights for transgenders

Upper House clears first private member’s Bill after 197025 Apr 2015 | 1:08 AM

NEW DELHI: In a first in last 45 years, the Rajya Sabha today unanimously passed a private member’s Bill seeking to protect rights and dignity of transgenders.

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Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 24

In a first in last 45 years, the Rajya Sabha today unanimously passed a private member’s Bill seeking to protect rights and dignity of transgenders.

Moved by DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, won support from members cutting across the party lines who all asked the government to take steps to bring the community facing social stigma and ostracism into the mainstream.

The government tried to persuade Siva to withdraw the Bill as many issues were yet to be resolved among various ministries and clarification had been sought from the Supreme Court on the matter. However, the DMK MP did not yield and insisted on voting, saying the issue was important.

Parliament has so far passed only 14 private members’ Bills. The last private member’s Bill passed by Parliament was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968, that became an Act on August 9, 1970.

“It is a unanimous decision of the House. This is a rare thing,” Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien announced after the Bill’s passage. The Bill envisages creation of national and state-level commissions for transgender communities among other facilities. It also provides for the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive national policy to ensure overall welfare of transgenders by the state.

Moving the Bill, Siva said: “We all have human rights, irrespective of our gender identity. The Bill I have presented is for an Act which will create an equal society as it recognises and protects transgender persons in all spheres of life.” “Different countries have taken steps, why not India?” he questioned.

However, the Bill will now have to clear the Lok Sabha test to become a law. For that, it will have to be moved in the Lower House either by the government or a Lok Sabha member, again as a private member’s Bill. Considering the assurance given by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot about the government’s commitment towards the neglected section of society, it may form a priority of the government.

In 2014, the Supreme Court had ordered transgenders be treated on par with the OBC community and extended all benefits, including quota in educational institutions and government jobs. Once it becomes a law, these will be established as rights.

Participating in a debate, members demanded equal rights to the community, which has been historically subjected to severe discrimination. Driven into begging and prostitution, the transgender community not just faces the ridicule from society but is also denied the basic rights normally enjoyed by men and women of the country.

What further makes the Bill’s passage even more significant is the rarity of such instruments ever make through Parliament. A miniscule number of such Bills ever get debated on the floor of the House. A private member's Bill is a proposed law introduced by a member who is not part of the executive branch — the government.

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