Transgender Rights Bill introduced in Lok Sabha, may be taken up next week

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Economic Times, July 20, 2019

The government on Friday introduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 in the Lok Sabha, to provide for the protection of rights and welfare of transgender people.

For the first time, the Bill has defined transgenders and has ensured family life for transgender children, made provisions for sex reassignment surgeries, psychological counselling and protection against any form of discrimination against transgender people. Minister of social justice and empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot introduced the Bill in the lower house of Parliament. The Bill is likely to come up for discussion and passing next week.

The government has defined a transgender person as a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-man or trans-woman (whether or not such person has undergone sex reassignment surgery or home therapy or laser therapy or such other therapy), person with intersex variations, genderqueer and person having such socio-cultural identities as kinner, hijra, aravani and jogta.”

As first reported in ET on July 18, the ministry has brought two major changes to the draft Bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2018. The government has ensured that a person does not have to appear before a screening committee to be declared a transgender. It has recognised a person’s “right to self-perceived gender identity”. Another change has been to decriminalise beggary in the chapter on “offences and penalties”. If passed, the Act will provide for major education, social security and health facilities for transgender people. The government has decided to pay for medical care facility including sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy for transgender people through a health insurance scheme.

Section 15 of the Bill says the government would provide for “medical care facility including sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy, before and after sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy counselling, bring out a health manual related to sex reassignment surgery in accordance with the World Profession Association for Transgender Health guidelines, review medical curriculum and research for doctors to address their specific health issues and make provision for coverage of medical expenses by a comprehensive insurance scheme for sex reassignment surgery, hormonal therapy, laser therapy or any other health issues of transgender persons”.

The Bill also provides protection for transgender children. Section 12 (1) says: “No child shall be separated from parents or immediate family on the ground of being a transgender…”

To begin with, the Centre would earmark Rs 1 crore to start the scheme in 2019-20. The Bill was first introduced in 2016 and was referred to a parliamentary committee that suggested a number of changes. All the changes were accepted by the government and a reworked Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2018.

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