Transgender persons say they go through tests to get ID cards

Self-identification enough for certification, says official

Published - June 29, 2021 11:23 pm IST - CHENNAI

Transgender persons are reportedly being subjected to medical and psychiatric examination for the purpose of issuing identity cards in some parts of the State. This goes against the prevailing rules that made self-identification a right of transgender persons, according to them.

Several transgender persons turned to government assistance following the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. However, most of them did not possess the transgender identity cards to avail of the assistance.

An official source in the Health Department said that in a number of districts, the social welfare offices organised camps for medical and psychiatric evaluation of transgender persons for the purpose of being certified to issue the ID cards. Such camps were organised in districts such as Thanjavur, Salem, Vellore and Chennai and transgender persons were sent to government medical college hospitals and affiliated institutions.

This, he said, was against provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 and ruling by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

“Self-identification is all that is required for certification. Instead, there have been issues where transgender persons were made to undergo medical examination and psychiatric evaluation to establish their identity at government hospitals,” the officer said.

A transgender activist, who did not want to be named, said, “Some transgender persons from a few districts told me that they were subjected to physical examination. This was not the case in Chennai. But there were instances in which some had to get certified by a psychiatrist. This happened across government hospitals in Chennai. This was basically to check their mental state, and one of them told me the question was ‘what is the day today?’ This shows that the existing rules have not reached the enforcers.”

“For many transgender persons, the last year has been a tough one owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and loss of employment. The ₹2,000 assistance given by the government is extremely important and they cannot choose to avoid this psychiatric evaluation for getting their identity cards,” said a transwoman. She questioned the need for them to be subject to such unnecessary questions at the evaluation.

However, another transgender person denied that they were subjected to psychiatric evaluation but were only sent to get an “opinion” from a psychiatrist. “It was only earlier that we were subjected to physical examination, and to check whether we had undergone sex reassignment surgeries,” she said.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, has outlined that there should be no medical or physical examination for procedures for issue of certificate of identity/change of gender. In its ruling, NALSA, upheld the right of all persons to self-identify their gender.

Gopi Shankar, Madurai, south regional representative, National Council for Transgender Persons, said the State government should immediately implement the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and rules notified in 2020, and also re-constitute the Transgender Welfare Board. They should issue clear-cut guidelines on the documents needed and appropriate officials to approach.

“Screening should be done in an affirmative way. In some cases, medical examination could benefit transgender persons. Some of them may have intersex conditions and need medical attention,” Gopi said.

A senior official from the Department of Social Welfare and Women Empowerment Department said that there were clear instructions as to how transgender persons could get registered for applying for an identity card. “They do not need to go to a hospital and can instead, meet a committee set up by the department which will also have a doctor. The committee will give them the necessary document,” he added.

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