On 22nd August (Friday) in a gazette notification, the Central government announced the formation of #NationalCouncilforTransgenderPersons under the #TransgenderPersons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019. The first of its kind council is set up with an aim to mainstream the transgender community’s concerns and focusing on their livelihood issues by formulating policies, programs, legislation and projects to achieve equality and full participation by the community. The council will also work to increase awareness about trans people so that they are accepted within their families as well as societies. the government has also set up transgender welfare boards in all states to tend to the basic needs like food, shelter, education and healthcare of the community.
This is considered to be an important milestone for the trans community as it comes with a long history. In 2013, an expert committee was set up by the government to study the problems of the transgenders and recommend solutions. The Supreme Court declared trans people as third gender and guaranteed their fundamental rights in 2014. A Bill aimed at providing several entitlements like health, education, skill development etc lapsed in Rajya Sabha in 2014. However, in 2016, the government passed its own Bill in the lower house and it was referred to a standing committee. This ultimately led to the Parliament passing the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2019 and finally in 2020, the Council has been formed.
As mentioned above, the Council has been established under the Transgender Persons Act of 2019. The Act defined a transgender person as one of those whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth and it includes transmen and transwomen, persons with intersex variations, gender queers and #kinnar and #hijras. According to the Act, a transgender person can obtain a certificate of identity at the District Magistrate’s office and a revised certificate can be obtained if the sex is changed. It also grants trans persons the right of residence with their immediate family members. It prohibits discrimination against the trans community and if done, such offences will be punished with imprisonment between 6 months to 2 years and also a fine.
The National Council will now have five main function
1. Advising the central government on the formulation of policies, programmes, legislation and projects with respect to transgender persons.
2. Monitoring and evaluating the impact of policies and programmes designed for achieving equality and full participation of transgender persons.
3. Reviewing and coordinating the activities of all the departments.
4. Redressing grievances of transgender persons.
5. Performing such other functions as prescribed by the Centre.
The Council will be headed by the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment and will consist of representatives from five states or Union Territories, which means that one representative will be selected from north, south, east, west and northeast regions on a rotational basis. The first cluster comprises of Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tripura and Gujarat. The Council will also have the representation from the trans community too as there will be five members from the above – mentioned regions. There will also be five experts from Non – Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The community members and experts shall remain will the Council for a tenure of 3 years.
Speaking about representation from all directions of the country, Santa Khurai a trans activist based in Manipur has said “I am glad that a member from the Northeast region has been appointed to be part of the council. However, there was no transparency in the manner in which the members were selected. This is a matter of concern,” according to a report in Hindustan Times.
The Council will also have representatives from 10 central departments and have joint secretary level members from the Ministries of Health, Home, Minority Affairs, Education, Rural Development, Labour and Law. A member from the Department of Pensions, NITI Aayog, National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Women will also be a part of the Council. “The transgender welfare board would guide the government in welfare schemes for them. This is a landmark event.” Said R Subramanyam, Union Social justice secretary.
It surely is a landmark event, but the success of the Council will entirely depend on its ability to identify the problems faced by the trans community and ensure that they advise the government to form policies required to tackle them. Nevertheless, more and more efforts should also be done to create more awareness and sensitise people to accept the transgender persons as a normal group of society.
– Jahnavi TR
References – https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/national-council-for-transgender-persons-formed/story-QXO57cxN8jhrpdmZZaWtbM.html#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20legislation%2C%20the,for%20achieving%20equality%20and%20full