Just days ahead of election season, party Indian National Congress pledged in its manifesto today (2 April) to withdraw of a controversial trans rights bill.
Lok Sabha, India’s House of People, is the lower house of India’s two-tier parliament. This is currently occupied by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
In a slew of promises, Congress said it will withdraw the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018, according to the Statesman if voted into a majority in the lower parliament.
Previously, Lok Sabha passed the bill but it was pending in the Rajya Sabha, the parliament’s upper house.
The news comes moments after a trans woman was found dead in a roadside in India.
What does withdrawing the bill mean?
A lot of good, actually.
Last month the 2018 Transgender Rights Bill passed the Lower House of Parliament. Lawmakers claimed it would enshrine more rights to the community.
But the trans community argued it does the opposite. Activists called on politicians to halt it in the Upper House.
The bill would deny the right to self identify, demand doctors examine trans people before they could legally change gender, and offer no new legal protections.
Instead of this, Congress said it will draft a new bill ‘in consultation with the LGBTQIA+ community,’ the manifesto said.
One that recognizes the ‘sexual diversity among people’ and accords trans folk ‘equality and equal protection of the laws.’
A step in the right direction
With election season firing up, trans voters are in the heated spotlight. Visibility in the Asian country is on the up as trans people create their own powerful political presence.
Importantly, more and more trans Indians are assuming positions of power.
Furthermore, trans Indians will also be able to vote as a third gender for the first time.
As a result, just over 39,000 voters registered under the trans-inclusive option. Though, a 2014 consensus found at least 5000,000 Indian citizens identify as trans.
India’s voting systems 101
With around 900 million voters, almost 2,000 registered parties, and five weeks of voting, the Indian elections can seem cacophonous.
Moreover, political pundits cannot simply shade the country’s patchwork of states, cultures, and various classes red or blue; it’s a kaleidoscopic country.
But as voters take to the polls, they will take stock of the country’s soaring unemployment rates, rising spates of violence, and farmer’s frustrations as India’s agriculture is suffocated by drying policies.
However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party are fighting to retain power. They face a rising opponent in the form of the Indian Congress Party.
Voting is set to unfold on 11 April until 19 May. Congress will announce the results on 23 May.