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The oxford dictionary defines transgender as Designating a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond to that person's sex at birth, or which does not otherwise conform to conventional notions of sex and gender. The Cambridge dictionary defines transgender as someone who feels they are not of the same gender they were assigned at birth. The relative infancy of the word, along with the fact that gender is understood differently in different cultures, presents a significant challenge to understand the problems of the transgender community. The word transgender became popular in the 1990s as a collective term to describe people who cross over traditional gender roles. Transgender author Virginia Prince is loosely credited with coming up with the term. In 1969, Prince used the term transgender to distinguish herself from transsexuals, or those who physically alter their bodies through hormones and surgery. While trans people are increasingly visible in both popular culture and daily life, we still face severe discrimination, stigma, and systemic inequality. With spreading awareness, people and the government have worked to give the equality and status the community deserves. But are laws enough to protect the interests and rights of this community which has suffered discrimination for centuries?
Transgender persons have been part of Indian society for
centuries. There are historical evidences of recognition of the
people not confirming to male or female gender
in writings of ancient India. The concept “napumsaka” has been an integral part of the Hindu mythology, and early Puranic literature. Hijras played an important role in the royal courts of the Islamic world. They were present at political positions, as administrators,
generals as well as in the harems. they were considered clever, trustworthy, and loyal. Then how come from an integral part of public and social life, the trans community came to be secluded and pushed to the margins.
Through the onset of colonial rule from the 18th century
onwards, the situation changed drastically. Accounts of
early European travelers show that they were disgusted by
the sight of Hijras and could not understand their significant presence in the royal courts and other institutions. British colonial administration vigorously sought to
criminalize the hijra community and to deny them civil
rights. They were considered to be a separate caste or tribe by the colonial administration. Slowly the colonial masters passed on this ideology to their Indian subjects. And as time passed the trans community became devoid of rights and respect in the society.
Trans people suffer from a legal system that often does not protect them from discrimination based on their gender identity. They live in poverty. The sight of trans people begging at the traffic signals is no rare sight in our country. Trans people face discrimination, stigma, and harassment. This stigma affects them in a variety of contexts – from family, friends, or coworkers who do not approve of trans people after learning about their trans identities; and to people who harass, bully and commit violent crimes against trans people. The lack of correct identity documents for trans people has a far-reaching effect on them. Without proper identification, they face problem while traveling, registering for anything etc,
The rights of Transgender person Bill was passed on 24th April, 2015. The rights guaranteed under the Bill are the right to equality and non-discrimination, free speech, to live in a community, integrity, free speech, and protection from violence and exploitation. The Bill intends to establish authorities and organizations – National and State Commissions for Transgender Persons. The Commission's work will be related to inquiry or recommendations in the inconsistencies in the application of the law or violations of rights of transgender persons. There is a penalty of imprisonment for up to a year for hate speech against transgender people.
The Bill might seem like a big step towards the cause of the Transgender community, but it fails in several aspects. , the provision for punishment for serious crimes committed against transgender people is substantially less severe than for the same crimes committed against cis-gendered people. The new bill also denies reservation to transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people, and requires them to be living with their birth families which are the site of physical and psychological violence in most cases. It has also been noticed that the community also faces discrimination as they are not given the right to contest election, right to vote (Article 326), employment, to get licenses, etc., and in effect, they are treated as outcast and untouchable.
The transgender community goes through stigma and discrimination. They have lesser opportunities as compared to others. They barely receive education as they are not accepted by society. Even if they are admitted to an educational institute, they face harassment and are bullied. Due to such hostile conditions at schools, colleges, and workplaces, they resort to begging. This shows that only when people change their outlook towards trans people and treat them equally, will their problems begin to solve. Hence mere laws cannot support the cause of the community.
The transgender community is diverse and complex, coming from every corner of the world. Different members of the community have different requirements and priorities. Similarly, there is no one correct way to deal with a situation or interact with every trans person. We must be aware of transgender identities or what it means to be trans. We must communicate in a friendly and non-judgemental manner.