Constitutional rights demanded for transgenders

Thiruvananthapuram, July 20 (IANS) Transgenders must be provided constitutional rights like all other citizens of India, a host of political leaders and experts advocated here on Monday.

“I strongly believe that time has come to stop centuries of oppression, stigma, denial and discrimination against all gender minorities,” Tiruchi Siva, a Rajya Sabha member from Tamil Nadu, said while addressing a meeting of transgenders here.

“One day, you too will be MPs and lawmakers,” he said at the gathering of over 200 transgenders at the Third Transgender Habba, organised by the Sangama Pehchan project that reaches out to over 27,000 gender minorities in Kerala.

Siva had introduced the private member’s Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 that will come up in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session. The Rajya Sabha has already passed the bill.

“Many members of parliament have expressed solidarity and I am expecting more support to the bill. The historic law will be passed in support of transgenders very soon. I will not allow the bill to be diluted,” he said.

Rajesh Umadevi, director of Sangama, an NGO working for human rights of sexual minorities from 1999, said the organisation was involved in national advocacy to promote the passage of the transgender bill in parliament “to stop the centuries of injustices, discrimination and persecution faced by gender minorities” in India.

Former Kerala education minister M.A. Baby said transgenders too were human beings and “they deserve equal rights like any other citizen”.

“I support the bill and we should make sure it is not diluted,” said Baby, a CPI-M politburo member.

Congress legislator V.T. Balaram said his party was the first to support the Delhi High Court verdict decriminalising section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with unnatural sex.

He said Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi support the human rights of the transgender community.

“The bill should be passed and gender minorities should get all benefits and protection,” said Balaram.

CPI-M Lok Sabha member A. Sampath said that as a progressive society, “we should make sure that transgenders have equal rights granted under article 21 to every citizen”.

“No member of gender minorities should be deprived of their life or personal liberty,” said Sampath.

A transgender, Christy Raj of Sangama, said, the community was “further marginalized within the gender minorities”.

“We should be included at the stage of designing and formulating schemes for these communities. Due to non-acceptance at homes, there are incidents of many transgenders running away from Kerala to neighbouring states,” said Christy.

Nisha Gulur, a transgender and advocacy officer for Kerala and Karnataka in the Pehchan project, said Kerala has become the first state to commission a survey of transgenders and to draft a transgenders policy.

“Now we demand national and state-level transgender welfare boards and ensure social inclusion to sexual minorities under the umbrella word transgender,” she said.

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