Published: 28th November 2019
'We will not stop fighting': TN transgender activist, Grace Banu on recently passed Transgender Bill, 2019
The Students Federation of India, Ambedkarite groups and many students organisations have extended support in protesting against the 'dispiriting Bill'
Despite months and months of talks and persuasions against the Transgender Bill, it was passed in the Parliament a couple of days ago. In the aftermath of the passing of the Bill, several student organisations have also organised protests in solidarity with the transgender community.
The Students Federation of India, Ambedkarite groups and many students organisations have extended support. Protests have so far happened in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Pune, Bangalore and activists in TN are in the process of organising protests too. We spoke to Grace Banu who has been at the forefront of the protests over the last few years and she was full of praise for all the students who had extended their support to the community. "Currently, it seems like college students are the ones who can help us fight. Whether it is NEP, atrocities or the Bill, they are the ones who are standing up for us," she said.
A pictorial description of Banu's fight. Artist - Kritika
The Transgender Bill has been controversial ever since it was formulated and the Transgender community has been completely against it. "The government keeps saying that this Bill has been put together for the upliftment of the transgender community. But it does nothing but hold us back in every way possible and take away all opportunities from future generations too. They didn't make the amends we recommended as well," she said. Banu said one of the worst points in this Bill is the transgender ID clause. Transgenders are required to approach their district magistrate in order to apply for an ID card. It would be solely dependent on the magistrate to give the applicant an ID, "If the family of the trans person is not in support of them, how can they expect the person to go back to that district and apply? Also, so many people are still so unaware about sexuality and gender, how can we trust that the district magistrate is aware of all this and will make the right decision?" Banu also points out that according to the NALSAR judgement, people are allowed to self identify, so she questions how it is right that somebody else to decide if someone was transgender or not.
Also, the definition of transgender according to the Bill is someone 'who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male. In addition, the person’s gender must not match the gender assigned at birth, and includes trans-men, trans-women, persons with intersex variations and gender-queers'. This includes intersex persons who might not want to identify as transgenders. "Now a transperson's options are that they either need to go to a rehabilitation centre or live with their family. They cannot come away and live on their own or seek help from the trans community like most young transgenders do. We know the state of our rehabilitation centres, so if they see no option, what will a young, confused individual do? Suicide? Is that what we want?" she asks.
The Bill makes no mention of reservation in education or employment sector, which is another reason why Banu is against the Bill, "If you are not going to give us a reservation in education, how are we supposed to get educated? How are we supposed to find jobs? After all these years of begging and forced sex work, and after we pay all our taxes, still, we don't get a reservation? This Bill is completely against the idea of upliftment of the transgenders. It gives us no protection at all," Banu said.
The other fact about the Bill that has infuriated the community is the mere six months to two-year imprisonment for sexual abusers. When it comes to rape against women, the punishment is a minimum of seven years. "Should we explain to them that sexual abuse also includes rape?" Banu questions.
Even though months of struggle yielded no positive response and the Transgender Bill got passed anyway, Banu says the community is nowhere close to giving up. "We will approach the Supreme Court. We believe there's hope because when we started fighting this in 2016, almost none of the MPs had any idea about transgenders, now we have met them, did lobbying, made them aware and a lot of them did vote against the bill this time. So we have to keep doing the same," she says.
"But we won't stop fighting will we get our liberation, freedom and rights back," she says, determined.