An expert committee has recommended that ‘transgender’ be declared the third gender, with the individual having the right to choose gender, and has asked the government to prepare a law to prevent discrimination and atrocities against these people.
Importantly, it has asked the National Crime Records Bureau to collect and compile statistics of crimes against transgender persons and cases registered against them.
The committee, set up by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment last year and chaired by the Additional Secretary of the Ministry, has said action must be taken against parents who neglect or abuse their gender non-conforming children and doctors who practise electro-shock or other kinds of unethical “conversion” therapy. Criminal and disciplinary action must be taken against delinquent police officers for violation of human rights of transgender persons.
Its report, submitted a few weeks after the Supreme Court criminalised same gender consensual sex, wanted laws against sexual assault and harassment and domestic violence made transgender-inclusive. Now Section 375 of the IPC, as amended, does not cover the transgender persons as victims of sexual assault. Section 375 should be included to cover sexual assault on them.
“Where transgender individuals need to be incarcerated, care must be taken to ensure that they are not in circumstances where they are vulnerable to sexual assault.”
The Ministry has asked the States to implement the recommendations of the committee, which has also said slurs based on perceived gender identity may be included in Section 153A of the IPC.
The committee has called for an intensive publicity media campaign and has said the Bureau of Police Research and Training should do a study on crimes against transgender persons, including alleged police excesses, to find out their causes and suggest preventive measures.
Recommending that ‘transgender’ be used as an inclusive term to cover all gender identities and expressions, the report has called for a compilation of all known transgender socio-cultural groups to be prepared and circulated among all for guidance. The terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ should not be used interchangeably, and only the term ‘gender’ should be used in official documents, such as identity documents, application forms, returns and reports.
Pointing out that the Constitution is ‘sex blind’ — equality before the law irrespective of sex — the report says a harmonious reading of the constitutional provisions as well as provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the General Clauses Act, 1897, will show that in fact any of these laws are not in conflict with the concept of ‘person,’ and a transgender person will undoubtedly fall within the definition of ‘person.’
The Medical Council of India, along with leading mental health institutions and organisations working on transgender issues, should develop practice protocols for the care of transgender adolescents. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will prepare a policy statement on providing essential gender-transition services in public hospitals, and a national clinical guidance document in keeping with international guidelines.