India and rights for transgender individuals

19 Jun 2024

TLDR: Ankita Mukherjee highlights the persistent exclusion and discrimination faced by transgender individuals in India despite legal advancements. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 undermines the right to self-determination by enforcing medical verification, affecting their claims to citizenship and livelihoods. The abrogation of Article 370 and the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens further marginalize transgender individuals, especially those in Kashmir and Assam, exacerbating their vulnerabilities and denying them fundamental rights. The state's bureaucratic hurdles and right-wing policies intensify their marginalization.

The text by Ankita Mukherjee critically examines the issues of exclusion and discrimination faced by transgender individuals in India, especially in the context of recent legal and political developments. Despite the landmark 2014 Supreme Court ruling that recognized transgender people as the "third gender" and upheld their rights to self-determination, subsequent legislation has significantly undermined these gains.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act (TPPR) of 2019, presented as an emancipatory law, paradoxically imposes stringent requirements for legal gender recognition. Transgender individuals must present detailed medical reports to district committees, effectively denying their right to self-determination and full citizenship. This gatekeeping mechanism subjects them to medical and life-course surveillance, stripping away their autonomy.

Additionally, the act criminalizes the traditional practice of badhai (alms collection), conflating it with begging, which threatens the economic and cultural survival of a large section of the transgender community.
The abrogation of Article 370, which revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status, further exacerbates the marginalization of transgender Kashmiris. Faced with double marginalization due to their Muslim and gender nonconforming identities, these individuals often lack family support and rely on the internet for safety and community. The communication blockade and curfew imposed following the abrogation severely restricted their access to essential support networks, leaving them even more vulnerable.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) introduce additional layers of exclusion. These laws disproportionately impact transgender individuals, particularly those from minority religious and ethnic backgrounds. Many transgender people, estranged from their families and lacking necessary documentation, find it nearly impossible to prove their citizenship. The bureaucratic hurdles of correcting identity documents further complicate their plight.
Mukherjee highlights how these policies weaponize bureaucracy to undermine the rights and citizenship of transgender individuals, perpetuating a cycle of exclusion and discrimination. The intersection of religious, gender, and ethnic identities creates unique challenges for transgender people, making it crucial to address these systemic issues to ensure their inclusion and protection.
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