The NDA government has dropped plans to recognise transgender persons as the ‘third gender’ in the country’s labour law framework.
In 2014, the Supreme Court had for the first time recognised transgender persons as the ‘third gender’ and asked the Centre and the States to give them equal opportunities in education and employment. But now this reform, part of the Labour Ministry’s draft law to codify wages and aimed at protecting transgender workers from discrimination, has been shelved following reservations expressed by the Law Ministry.
Defined as persons
“We had proposed inserting clauses for recognising the rights of transgender workers in all the four labour codes. However, the Law Ministry objected, citing the General Clauses Act of 1897, according to which ‘transgenders’ fall within the definition of ‘person’. It was then decided that there was no need to add a separate clause for them,” a senior Labour and Employment Ministry official told The Hindu .
The Wages Code Bill was drafted under an exercise to rationalise the country’s 44 labour laws into four codes covering all the regulations pertaining to wages, industrial relations, social security and safety, and health and working conditions.
“Now, because of the objections raised by the Law Ministry, we will not mention the term ‘transgender’ while stating the entitlements related to gender in any of the labour laws,” the official added. The draft Labour Code on Wages Bill prepared by the Labour Ministry in 2015 had provisions prohibiting discrimination against transgender persons in the payment of wages.
“The Law Ministry’s argument is totally illogical. Dropping the separate clauses protecting transgender persons is a hypocritical move by the Union government, as it is well known that we face discrimination at the workplace. The dignity of our body needs to be protected at the workplace as well, with basic facilities such as restrooms and equal wages,” transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi said.
The government’s proposed amendments to the Factories Act, 1948 in 2015 had also proposed special protections for transgender workers. “Every transgender worker shall have equal right to work opportunities in a factory. The state government may make rules providing to secure the rights of transgender workers to ensure respect for inherent dignity, non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference and acceptance of transgender persons as part of human diversity and humanity,” the proposal said.
But the Labour Ministry official confirmed that in the case of the Factories Act, too, the clause pertaining to transgenders has been dropped in the latest draft amendments.
According to the Fifth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey conducted by the Labour Bureau in 2015-16, 48% of transgenders were either working or were available for work, as against 23.7% females, and 75% males.