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Transgender Day of Rage protests dominate Kolkata Pride in India

Transgender Day of Rage protests dominate Kolkata Pride in India

Protestors at the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk

India’s oldest Pride parade was preceded this year by a huge street protest calling for changes to the Federal Government’s new Bill on trans rights.

Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk in north-east India held its 16th parade on Saturday.

As many Pride parades in India it was awash with colourful costumes, allies and protest signs, calling for; the end of Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality and improved rights for the trans community.

But before the main event kicked off a group of protestors marked what the called, ‘Transgender Day of Rage’. They were protesting the Federal Government’s controversial transgender Bill which was introduced last year.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, supposedly is designed to improve the rights of trans people in India. But many of its critics argue that it will undermine the lives and livelihoods of trans people in India.

‘The proposed Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 goes against not just the NALSA verdict but also the government’s own Parliamentary Standing Committee report,’ protest organizers said in a statement.

NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) was the landmark ruling made by the India Supreme Court in 2014. The court ruled trans people were a ‘third gender’ who should be afforded fundamental rights under the country’s Constitution. The course also ruled trans people the right to self-identify as male, female or third gender.

‘Most crucially, this Bill is wrong in its understanding of ‘transgender’ and ‘intersex’ persons and how they may be different. It defines transgender people based on their anatomical maleness or femaleness rather than self-defined gender identity,’ protestors said.

About the Bill

The Bill was introduced last year by the ruling, nationalistic BJP party. Last month the BJP rejected all recommendations for changes to the Bill by Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Transgender Persons Bill. The BJP plans to table the Bill unamended in the winter siting of parliament.

Some features of the Bill that advocates are not happy with is that it will criminalize begging, with a punishment of a six months to two year jail term and a fine.

‘This puts vulnerable trans and intersex women who beg on the streets of India, due to lack of any other livelihood options, at grave risk of further police and state violence,’ said advocacy group, the Sampoorna Working Group.

Critics say the Bill also takes away the freedom of self-determination when it came to identity.

In it current form the Bill defines trans people as ‘neither wholly female nor wholly male; a combination of female or male; neither female nor male’, and ‘whose sense of gender does not match with the gender assigned to the person at the time of birth’.

A national struggle

Writer Sandip Roy said the collective fight against the Bill by India’s LGBTI community has only been matched by the community’s struggle to abolish Section 377.

‘Not since the fight to overturn Section 377 has there been such a national galvanisation of the LGBT community as the opposition to a Transgender Rights bill the government wants to introduce in the winter session of Parliament,’ Roy wrote in FirstPost.

Pawan Dhall is the former country director of Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India (SAATHI).

‘The bill denies one the right to identify his or her own gender. This goes against a Supreme Court order on this issue,’ Dhall told the Hindustan Times.

‘The bill says transgender people will be identified on the basis of their anatomical feature.’

Protestors from around India plan to descend on the national capital, New Dehli, on 17 December to call for the Transgender Persons Bill to be scrapped.