The government did not think it necessary to consult or discuss the issue with DMK MP Tiruchi Siva(62) before introducing in the Lok Sabha a bill for transgenders. The DMK MP’s private member bill on the subject was the first such bill to be passed by the Rajya Sabha in 45 years. It was never discussed in the LS. And Siva says the new bill is both a flawed and watered-down version of what he had initiated. Excerpts from his conversation with Anoo Bhuyan:
Why did you opt to move a private member bill last year?
I could have raised it on the floor of the House, but that doesn’t lead to anything. I had to persuade those in power. Hence I brought it in to initiate a wider discussion. Although the government asked if I would like to withdraw it as it planned to introduce a bill, I INSisted on it because I did not want to leave it to the government.
And what do you think about the government’s bill?
The government has tried to put my bill under the carpet. The new bill is totally diluted. Neither is the transgender community happy, nor am I.
Why would the government do this?
I can’t say what the intention is, but it’s not rounded. The government must have consulted experts; whenever I’d ask the minister, he would say everything was going fine. He never suggested that we should talk.
What are your main objections?
I had suggested a 2 per cent reservation for transgenders. If not that, provide at least 0.5 per cent. I’m not asking for vertical reservation, I’m asking for a slice of the OBC reservation. Indeed, how can transgenders compete on an equal footing when they have been denied education and jobs for so long? There is no commission to oversee if schemes are implemented. The bill does not provide for fast-track courts. They have said for sexual harassment, they need amendments in IPC. But there are sections for sexual harassment of women and the same could apply to transgenders. We wash our hands of these vital issues, saying we have brought in a bill. And people in the media will commend the government.
But surely, this is a step forward?
For seven decades, the government hasn’t done anything, unlike in many countries. So, don’t make us feel that nothing was better than having this. People will now say to transgenders: “You have a law in place, why are you still asking for rights?”
What’s the solution? Amendments?
We can try that. The government itself can consider this. But I think it is more interested in a cosmetic exercise.
What are the ‘clash-points’ between the 2014 SC verdict and this bill?
The court said transgenders should be considered the third gender. It said there should be (a legal enabling of) self-identification. But the government suggests transgenders must apply for this identification before a committee. How will they navigate a complicated process like this?