Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020

As soon as the pandemic hit all the sources of income for transgender persons dried up, as all high contact jobs such as begging, sex work, working in salons all became jobs that were restricted. During this period when various NGOs, CSOs and individuals were scrambling to procure funds in order to provide some sort of financial assistance for working class transgender persons across the country. A number of like minded individuals, organisations working for rights of transgender persons and collectives wrote to the government requesting for assistance of some sort for transgender persons. Since till April the central government and the state government had taken a complete hands off approach and left transgender persons in the country fending for their own lives, many who were facing abuse at their household, many who ended up killing themselves and many who were abused and harassed in public with no way to approach the gates of justice.

At such an instance the government released for forms to be filled up for financial assistance of Rs 4,500 to every transgender person, which would be done through a direct cash transfer to their bank accounts. Due the lack of access to formal financial services and lack of bank accounts this hardly reached a total of 4000 transgender persons, which barely covered 1% of the total transgender population in the country (According to the 2011 Census the total number of transgender persons in the country is about 4.98 Lakh transgender persons). Though there were multiple representations that were sent again by various organisations and collectives to both central and state governments, other than Kerala none of the state governments took any pro-active steps to alleviate issues that transgender persons faced in the country.

In such a dire state the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment released the draft rules of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 in May and opened it for suggestions till the 30th of June. This during a time when there are three constitutional challenges to the Act in the Supreme Court and notices have been issued in all of them. The rules were framed without any consultation with members from the transgender community and during a time when physical meetings would be impossible. Furthermore since very few transgender persons have access to internet online meetings and consultations would be hardly effective. Furthermore the Act itself had very few translations in languages other than English and Hindi, and the other translations were done by various collectives that pooled resources. The rules itself were extremely discriminatory and since it followed from an unconstitutional act was bound to be unconstitutional. Further hurting the lives of transgender persons and making their lives even more difficult.

On the 13th of July 2020 the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment through the gazette published the draft rules and opened it for comments and suggestions that would be accepted till the 20th of August 2020. This process being completed without any consultation from members of the community or transparency with regard to the suggestions either. The following is the draft rules that have been published for which suggestions have been opened until the 20th of August 2020.

After a round of suggestions that were accepted till the 13th of August 2020, the government stopped accepting anymore suggestions and finally published the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 on the 29th of September 2020 in the Gazette. Though there are a few suggestions that were accepted there is still much more to achieve and challenge the extensive control on expression of gender the rules places: