In a landmark step, Kerala Government has unveiled its Transgender Policy, for the purpose of safeguarding their constitutional rights, as well as the right to self-identify as male, female or third gender. The Policy will cover all the categories of transgenders, including but not limited to Female to Male TGs, Male to Female TGs and Inter-sex people.
The Policy was unveiled by State Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson by presenting its copy to noted transsexual-gender minority activist Akkai Padmashali during the inaugural ceremony of the first International Conference on Gender Equality, which began at nearby Kovalam.
The Policy Document takes into account the Supreme Court judgment in the case of NALSA v. Union of India wherein the Supreme Court had directed the Transgender community to be formally recognized as the third sex and also to avail the benefits of socially and economically Backward Communities. You may read the Supreme Court directions here.
The Policy advocates the use of the nomenclature transgenders, instead of third gender. This in consonance with the report of the expert committee on issues related to transgender persons, constituted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Environment.
It addresses the stigma and the discrimination faced by the transgenders in the Indian society, which is the very genesis of the problems faced by them. It prescribes awareness generation and sensitization for parents to support and accept their non-conforming children. Counseling and other mental health services that confirm the child's gender identity are prescribed for the children as well as the parents.
The Policy suggests that Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which currently covers only women has victims of sexual assault, be made gender neutral to include transgenders as well. Further, the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act have been suitably modified/ amended to address the concerns of gender non-conforming children as well. It also advocates for legislation to ensure the rights of transgenders regarding marriage, partnership, living relationship and parenting.
In police training programmes, sessions on gender identities, sexual identities and issues faced by transgenders in public space have been stipulated to be included. It also prescribes that judicial training programmes should incorporate a similar component on issues specific to transgender persons, with a focus on legal aspects, taking into account the Supreme Court judgment in the case of NALSA v. Union of India and the expert committee report of Ministry of Social Justice and Environment on transgender issues.
It furthermore provides for free legal aid to transgenders seeking redress against discrimination and violence.
Besides, the following measures have been suggested:
State TG Welfare Board and District TG Welfare Board: These Boards need to be established by way of an Act. The State Board would comprise of a Chairperson (Minister for Social Justice), Vice Chair Person (Secretary, Department of Social Justice), Member Secretary (Director, Department of Social Justice) and seven Members. The members would be the Secretaries of Department of Home Affairs, Department of Finance, Department of Health, Department of Higher Education, Department of Law and Department of Labour, along with the Director of Public Institution.
The Nominated Members would include one representative from an NGO, which has been working for the rights of transgenders for a significant period of time. The representative should also have a good track record in this field. The Board would also include five representatives from the transgender community.
The term of the board is five years. The meeting of the board is to be convened at least once in three months.
Counseling Centres: The Policy provides for setting up of Counseling Centres in all districts of the State, for the transgenders to cope up with the trauma of violence and abuse. Further, officials in Anganwadi Centres and Self Help Groups may be oriented on transgender issues and involved in providing information to parents of gender-nonconforming youth.
Education Institutions: Educational institutions/ Universities should establish an anti-discrimination cell to monitor any form of discrimination / harassment against gender non-conforming students and Transgender students. In this regard, sensitization of teachers, staff and other children has also been prescribed. School syllabus has also been suggested to be altered to include issues related to transgenders.
Residence: It emphasizes the need for safe residence for transgender children as well as sensitization and capacity building of the caregivers for addressing the concerns of gender non-conforming children and Transgenders.
Employment: Sensitization of employers and employees in workplaces/ offices in public and private sector has also been prescribed. Anti-discrimination policies must be instituted and meaningfully implemented in the processes of hiring, retention, promotion and employee benefit schemes. Workplace sexual harassment policies should be made transgender inclusive.
TG help line (24x7) and crisis management centre: This will be run by the Social Justice Department with the help of NGOs (working in the field of transgenders) and CBOs
Self-employment grants: These grants would be aimed at addressing the income needs of transgenders.
Schemes for housing and shelter: Under the scheme Indira Awaas Yojana, subsidies or grants may be provided to TGs for constructing houses. Day care centres for older transgenders should also be made available. The possibility of providing registered land to transgenders for constructing houses should also be considered. The assistance given for housing of transgenders can be a combination of grants, subsidies, loans depending on the income of the beneficiary.
Schemes for Healthcare: It suggests that transgenders should be included in the Rashtriya Swasthya Bhima Yojana and provided health insurance. Self Help Groups or Societies of transgenders can avail the benefits under the Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS) also. Health insurance card should be issued to the transgenders. A fund should be provided for Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in Government hospitals.
Scheme on Provision of Food: BPL Ration food cards under Public Distribution System should be given to the transgenders to provide food at free/subsidized cost.
Monthly Pension scheme for Destitute Transgenders: Financial assistance should be provided as monthly pension for destitute transgenders and those above the age of 55.
Read the Full text here.