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Transgender Bill does not address important issues

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 is tabled in the Lok Sabha by the Government of India and the Bill is being pushed by the BJP Government in the winter session. Currently the Bill is being opposed with contempt from members across the Transgender community in India and rightly so.

The Supreme Court’s 2014 verdict has beautifully articulated the term “gender identity” and the definition of transgender. But the reality with the unhinging patriarchy and gender-based discrimination tell a completely different story.

For starters, the current Bill completely eliminates the option of self-identification and it wrongly reinforces the stereotypes of transgender persons being partly male and partly female. The Bill provides for a mechanism for a transgender person to apply for a certificate of identity. The Bill also proposes for a screening committee to determine the genuinity of an individual’s identity and it undermines the spirit of the NALSA Judgment.

Secondly the Bill falls short on defining the term “discrimination” as it vaguely forbids discrimination in public places, educational institutions, health care centres etc, but there is a lack of law enforcing provisions in the Bill especially on sexual harassment against the community members.

Thirdly, the Bill criminalizes the act of begging while completely neglecting the fact that it is one of the few options of generating income for the transgender persons.

Fourthly, the NALSA judgement provided for reservations under backward classes, while the entire provision has disappeared in the current Bill.

Fifthly, the Bill does not mention anything on Property Rights, marriage, divorce, adoption etc as it is clearly affirmed in the NALSA judgement.

And the reasons for the contempt go on as this Bill is clearly drafted without trying to find out the needs of the community members and rejecting the recommendations made by the Standing Committee. As an Organization and a movement we firmly stand against this proposed Bill to be passed as Law in the coming winter session.

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Socio- Medical Status of Transgender Persons in India

Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is also known as gender reassignment surgery (GRS), genital reassignment surgery, gender confirming surgery. Simply put, it involves a sex change operation. SRS is a surgical procedure that entails removing the genitalia of one sex and constructing the genitals of the opposite sex.

In the 2014, a planning meeting was held at Bangalore Medical College with support of NIMHANS, Bangalore Medical College, Victoria Hospital, M. S. Ramaiah Hospital, and Ondede along with the community members took part in the meeting.

After three years of constant efforts, on September 12th, 2017 with the joint efforts of NIMHANS, Ondede and Swatantra, a national meeting called “Socio-Medical Status of Transgender Persons in India” was organized at Govindaswamy Building, NIMHANS.

At this meeting, we had representatives from the States of Manipur, West Bengal, Delhi, Mumbai, Telangana, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Kerala shared the developments on availability of SRS for Transgender persons in their States. The main objective of the meeting is to bring focus of the State and private institutions on the lack of access to SRS for transgender persons in order to ensure the implementation of guidelines or policies in the context of NALSA Judgment and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

From the medical fraternity, we had doctors from Victoria Hospital, M.S. Ramaiah Hospital and NIMHANS.

After all the State representatives and  the medical experts shared their experiences and opinions on health-care, the problems faced by them and their solutions for it, resolutions were unanimously passed. The entire meeting is documented in a  form of a Report which will be published soon. This meeting was necessary to know the how it works in other States of India and their position as it will help us to form a  committee for SRS and hence form better guidelines/ protocols/ policies for the State of Karnataka.

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Democracy and The Age of Consent: A Symposium at St. Joseph’s College

St. Joseph’s College along with the Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity hosted a Symposium on Democracy and the Current Situation in India. Ondede in partnership with Janadhare organized a panel on “The Age of Consent” as part of this symposium.

The objective of the panel was to raise awareness about the convergence of the rights of women, children and sexual minorities on the issue of the age of consent.  The panel was composed of student speakers as well as eminent personalities such as Ms. Kavita Ratha, Ms. Anita Cheria and Mr. Vasudhendra Shroff, with each panelist bringing their own unique experience and perspective to the discussion. The panel was moderated by Dr. Akkai Padmashali, co-founder of Ondede.

The student panelists deliberated on the definition of consent and came to the conclusion that just saying yes is not enough. What is necessary is an informed consent – an informed yes, whereby all factors influencing a decision are considered, the decision is made with enough knowledge of the consequences of taking the decision,  and the decision is taken from a wide range of available options.

Ms. Kavita Ratha spoke specifically about the restriction of age as a standard of measure. She challenged the accuracy of the use of age, in legal language as a measure of the ability of a person. Ms. Anita Cheriya further vexed this question by asking “if there is no age for dissent, how can one decide an age for consent?” Mr.Shroff wove the arguments together and said that the age of consent should take into account an individual’s physical and mental ability to give consent.

The panel ended with the conclusion that responses to issues around the age of consent have to be tailored according to the children or adults involved and that the law must be applied with wisdom.

The Transgender Community Responds to the Transgender Person’s Bill 2016

The Transgender Person’s Bill was presented to the Lok Sabha earlier this year in hopes for better protection of the rights and welfare of the community. The bill addresses the specific issues of identification, discrimination, and inclusion of the transgender community in the larger society. Members of Ondede, along with allies from various different sections within the transgender community, gathered for a conference held on the 3rd of November to draft a set of suggested amendments to the bill. The key amendments suggested are as follows:

First, it asked for the term “transgender” to be redefined such that it does not flatten the transgender identity as one that is solely determined by biology, but rather reflects the multiplicity of socio-cultural identities within the community. Furthermore, it is suggested that a distinction be drawn between transmen and transwoman in determining legislation to ensure that the unique needs of each group are catered to; specifically, those of the transwoman given the additional societal pressures foisted on female persons.

Second, the report asks for family abuse to be made legible as a critical source of discrimination and harassment for transgendered individuals and asks for the concerned authorities to provide increased protection from the same. In a similar vein, the bill also asks for the criminalization of the sexual harassment and assault of transgendered persons (specifically assault excused by religion) to further protect individuals within the community.

Third, it is suggested that the instead of a District Screening Committee, a District Screening Commission be formed to lessen the complications involved in requiring a bureaucratic organization to sanction ones’ identity. In addition, it was asked that a time frame for issuing official certification be enacted as a binding standard to make the service readily accessible. On the National Level, the report suggests that a National Commission for Transgender Persons be formed as delineated in the Rights for Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, to ensure accountability within society.

This Bill is a crucial legislative tool for the transgender community and we sincerely hope that constructive discourse with the Standing Committee will lead to better legislation for the community in the near future.

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City Government allocates Rs. 2 Crore for transgender community welfare

For the very first time Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike ( Bangalore City Municipal Corporation) has allocated two crore rupees from the budget for 2016-2017 for the welfare of Transgender community – a big step for the transgender movement. The implementation and planning meeting for the use and allocation these funds took place on the 12th of July. The Mayor of Bangalore city,Chairpersons of finance and social welfare and various other government officials met with representatives from major sexual minority organization in Bangalore, including Ondede, KSMF, SAMARA, PAYANA and JEEVA organisations. The meeting ran smoothly and efficiently, and paved the path for what we hope will be a bright future for the welfare of the transgender community.

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Ondede invited to be a part of the Board of Directors Meeting for the Reserve Bank of India

For the very first time in the history, transgender members from Ondede were invited by the Reserve Bank of India on the 6th of July to be part of Board of Directors meeting, to discuss with Honorable Governor Raghuram G. Rajan about the economic status of the Transgender community in India. It was a privilege to be a part of this event, and to see the issues of trangenders being represented within economic policy formation. Dr. Rajan instructed to Directors of RBI to take necessary action for the inclusion of transgenders at all the levels. Other friends and Ondede supporters who were present at the meeting were Kiran Mazumdar, MP Rajeev Gowda, the Vice Chancellor of NLS, and the theatre Activist Prasanna.

“Towards Radical Inclusivity”. A lecture by Dr. Smitha Radhakrishnan

Jointly organized by Ondede and the Gender Sensitization cell, a public lecture was held at the St. Joseph’s College Auditorium on the 5th of July, with guest speaker Dr. Smitha Radhakrishnan, who is a professor of Sociology at Wellesley College in Boston, USA.

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Dr Radhakrishna’s talk was on “radical inclusivity”, which is an inclusivity that maintains at its core the idea that every human has the right to thrive equally amongst other humans. Her talk was thus an imagination of a radically inclusive world, where we embraced inclusivity in our work and professional spheres, in our societal norms, in our love and our relationships and in the manner in which we produce our knowledge.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer session with the audience and the presiding panel, which apart from Dr. Radhakrishnan, included other eminent speakers such as Ms. Meera Chakraborty, Ms. Akkai Padmashali, Professor Kiran Jeevan and Professor. Padma Baliga. The discussion was powerful and insightful, and drew in many perspectives from an engaged audience. The topic of inclusivity and exclusivity within our society is a topic that deserves much more discussion and thought, and affects every single person’s life. Ondede was proud to be part of such a forum that helped begin this discussion within our minds, and our communities.

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Youth visit from Mt.Carmel College

Students from Mt. Carmel College visited the Ondede office on the 30th of June, to learn about convergence. It was a pleasure to see youth involving themselves within these discussions, and speak so passionately on these burning social issues.

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Ondede organizes a Gender Awareness Program for police forces

The Karnataka Police Academy,Mysore and Ondede, jointly organized an awareness program for sub-inspectors and senior officers across Karnataka, including the Director of the Karnataka Police Academy The program took place on the 16th of June, and aimed to educate and bring awareness surrounding issues of gender identity, sexual diversity and human rights. More than 300 police officers attended the program. Members from the sexual minority community, including a kothi, a trans-woman, a trans-girl and a homosexual man also shared their testimonies, which helped closely understand the issues faced by sexual minorities in Karnataka. The session was moderated by Dr. Akkai Padmashali.

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