Prisons lack awareness about needs of transgender inmates: report

It says governments have failed to comply with the standards for ascertaining their needs

Published - November 28, 2020 04:37 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Tihar jail in New Delhi. File

A view of the Tihar jail in New Delhi. File

A report released on Friday by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) found that prisons across the country lacked policies and awareness about the needs of transgender inmates, leading to denial of their rights.

The report, ‘Lost Identity: Transgender Persons in Indian Prisons’, compiled Right to Information replies from State governments and prisons. A total of 214 transpersons were lodged in different jails from May 2018 to April 2019, with Uttar Pradesh and Telangana having the highest numbers with 47 and 40 inmates respectively.

“It is important here to highlight that there may have been more than 214 transgender prisoners confined in prisons across the country. With no proper mechanism or uniformity in the maintenance of data regarding transgender persons, it is highly likely that this figure might be skewed, and actual numbers might be higher,” the report said.

The States and prisons gave varying responses on their treatment of transprisoners. The report found that the governments had failed to comply with the standards for ascertaining the needs of transprisoners.

“Not only prisons, but courts too fail to recognise a ‘third gender’ and the gender of transgender persons continues to be identified as per their genitalia, and documented in the male/female binary categorisation. This lack of recognition seeps into all prison processes including search procedures and placements within prisons. Further, prisons continue to cater to primarily male populations, and fail to acknowledge the vulnerabilities of transgender prisoners,” it said.

There have been no programmes or initiatives for transprisoners, nor have there been any awareness campaigns for the prisoners and prison staff, it said.

Model policy

“The Central government may formulate a model policy on ascertaining special needs of transgender persons in prisons, and outline guidance on documentation, search procedures, placement, medical facilities and recreational/welfare/ educational activities within prisons,” the CHRI recommended.

During the virtual launch and discussion on the report, former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan B. Lokur, said the harassment, abuse and disregard of their gender identities that trans people face were only compounded inside jail. He said while the Supreme Court judgment in the NALSA vs. Union of India case in 2014 recognised third gender, there was a lack of awareness about it. He said all institutions, including police, judicial and civil services training institutes, needed to look at these issues.

National Human Rights Commission secretary-general Bimbadhar Pradhan said the NHRC would issue guidelines regarding protection of trans rights in prions. He added that the NHRC core group had discussed the need for adequate representation of the trans community within the NHRC.

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