Published: 30th April 2020
How can we respond during lockdown? 150 transgenders write to Govt to protest minute feedback window to crucial act
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment asked the public for feedback on the Draft Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020
After the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment sought feedback from the public over the Draft Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, 150 transgender persons have responded seeking an extension to do the same. The transgender community stated that it was unfair to seek feedback during the lockdown as several members continue to struggle to meet their basic needs.
The Ministry had issued the call for feedback on April 18 and gave the deadline for submission as April 30. The community said in their letter to the Ministry that they were shocked to note the timing and manner of seeking feedback - one, because of the lockdown and second, because the feedback time was inconsistent with the pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP), 2014 which states that all details pertaining to a proposed bill or rules must be placed in public domain for a period of 30 days. “The Policy also envisages a process for consultation with the specific communities/ groups affected by such law or rules,” they said in their letter.
Without consultation, no sensible reply could be given, they pointed out. “The feedback is expected within 12 days, that too at a time when the nation is in lockdown and no physical interaction between members of the community is possible for deliberations or consultations and transgender people are struggling for basic survival,” the community members said in their letter to the Ministry.
The signatories, which include popular TN activist Grace Banu, also pointed that all the rules have been placed only on the website and were in English despite the fact that a majority of the community neither has access to web-based portals or the English language. “An Act which claims to be ‘inclusive’ cannot adopt a rule-making process so exclusionary,” they added.
The transgender community invoked the NALSA judgement of 2014 and pointed out that the legislation went through many stages including a Private Member Bill, Report of the Standing Committee and many versions proposed by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment too eventually leading to the Bill being passed and receiving the Presidential stamp. “As members of the transgender community from across the country we have been very active through all these stages and have constantly been communicating to your Ministry our serious reservations regarding the non-consultative manner in which the Act was passed as well as many of the deeply problematic provisions in the Act, which fundamentally go against the grain of NALSA as well as our constitutional rights as equal citizens,” the members wrote.
The members said that they would like to place on record that the constitutional vires of the Transgender Persons (protection of Rights) Act, 2019 is impugned before the Supreme Court. “Since the matter is sub juice, it would be in the fitness of things to await the Court verdict before proceeding with an rule making process,” they said. After stating these points, the signatories urged the Ministry to proceed with the rule-making process of the Act only after the matter pending before the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of the Act is fully decided and provisions of NALSA are complied with.
The other demand is that the Ministry wait till the lockdown is fully lifted and the situation of transgenders returns to at least a ‘degree of pre-lockdown normalcy’ and that the provisions of the PLPC Policy are compiled with and the community is given adequate time to consult with each other. That could take place after the lockdown. “The window for response to the draft rules must be kept open for adequate time after lockdown is lifted, when the community is in a position to consult and submit feedback. We earnestly hope that the Ministry would undertake a broad-based and inclusive process of consultation before proceeding with any aspect of framing rules that would affect lakhs of transgender persons across the country, “ they stated.