Christian transgenders to have equal right on ancestral property

Delhi Minorities Commission recommends amendment to Succession Act

May 12, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 09:37 am IST - New Delhi:

For the first time, transgenders (belonging to the Christian community) can have equal rights over ancestral property.

The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) — after consultation with the Advisory Committee of Christians, which consists of 52 religious leaders and professionals — has recommended to the Law Commission to amend the India Succession Act, 1925 and include the third gender in section 44.

In a meeting held on April 21, all members of the Advisory Committee agreed that transgenders should be given equal rights just as men and women. “The entire Christian Committee agreed. We are hopeful that this will be incorporated and the Law Commission clears this recommendation,” said Abraham M. Pattiyani, member of DMC.

The Law Commission of India in its 247th report had asked the DMC for recommendations and suggestions for amendments in India Succession Act. Once cleared, the Bill will be tabled in the Parliament. “With the inclusion of the term ‘transgender’ in the Act, they can move to court if they are discriminated during distribution of property,” said Mr Pattiyani.

Section 44

As per Section 44 of the Act, If the intestate’s father is dead but the intestate’s mother is living, and if any brother or sister and the child or children of any brother or sister who may have died in the intestate’s lifetime are also living, then the mother and each living brother or sister, and the living child or children of each deceased brother or sister, shall be entitled to the property in equal shares, such children (if more than one) taking in equal shares only the shares which their respective parents would have taken if living at the intestate’s death.

In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court in April 2014 created the ‘third gender’ status for hijras or transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender. “But that law states equal rights to brothers and sisters. This amendment will help those who do not want to be called son or daughter but just transgenders,” said Dr M.P Raju, a Supreme Court lawyer.

Relief for the ‘third gender’

Laxmi, a 53-year-old Hijra from Kerala who was heading the NGO Buniyaad Foundation, was denied any claim over ancestral property and her three brothers distributed it among themselves. “I also have a sister but her share was given to her as dowry when she got married. They didn’t give me a single penny,” said Laxmi. “But hopefully many transgenders can benefit if this becomes law.” Laxmi, a Christian herself, added that it is a common practice I her community to give the share to the daughter as dowry even as SC law gives equal rights to women over property.

Community leaders are hopeful that other religious leaders will take a cue and ensure equal rights to third gender. But some activists aren’t enthused about the move. Ashok Row Kavi, an LGBT activist said that there is already a law in place and all siblings have equal rights over property. “The Christians Committee is only trying to score points. Some Churches do not recognize transgenders,” said the activist.

Panel wants third gender to be included in Section 44 so they can fight discrimination

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