Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Indian Ministerial Committee Considers Granting Third Gender Status to Transgender Persons


NEW DELHI: 

The government has constituted an inter-ministerial committee to pursue implementation of the recommendations of an Expert Committee, seeking "third gender" status for transgenders, Lok Sabha was informed today.

Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Sudarshan Bhagat(above), in a written statement in Lok Sabha said the key recommendation of the Committee formed by the government was that the transgender should be declared as third gender.

He said the other recommendations include access to health-care, educational opportunities at all levels without stigma and discrimination, formulation of umbrella schemes and others.

The Supreme Court in its judgment had directed the Centre and state governments to take steps for framing various social welfare schemes for betterment of transgender persons, take proper measures to provide medical care, hospital and others.

"The expert committee has recommended a state level authority duly designated or constituted by the respective states/UTs on the lines of Tamil Nadu Transgender Welfare Board.

"An Inter-Ministerial committee has been constituted to pursue implementation of Expert Committee's recommendations," Bhagat said.

The minister said the Court has further directed to examine the recommendations of the Expert Committee based on legal declaration made in its judgement and implement them.

Replying to another question, he said that "keeping in view the socio-cultural-economic and technological developments in the last decade, the National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP), 1999 is being revised by the department of Social Justice and Empowerment to include promotion of measures to create avenues for continuity in employment or post retirement opportunities for senior citizens".

Bhagat said the NPOP, 1999 recognizes that 60 plus phase of life is a huge untapped resource and proposes that facilities be provided to senior citizens so that their potential is utilized.

To carry forward the spirit of the policy, various programmes like computer training for senior citizens, school programme for inter-generational bonding are being carried out.

Transgenders celebrate with a cake after the Supreme Court'­s verdict recognizing third gender category, in Mumbai, India, April 15, 2014.

Transgender folks celebrate with a cake after the Supreme Court'­s verdict recognizing third gender category, in Mumbai, India, April 15, 2014. Rajanish Kakade/AP

India’s Supreme Court had issued a landmark ruling in April that allowed hundreds of thousands of transgender people to identify themselves as a third gender. Human rights groups are lauding the decision as historic and groundbreaking.

“It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” the court wrote.

“Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, one of the two head judges on the Supreme Court bench, told the court.

The high court has ordered the government to allocate public sector jobs to transgender people, known as “hijras” and include them in welfare programs.

The court ruling is a result of a petition filed by a group of transgender people that argued their community was marginalized both economically and socially. Arguing that their non-legal status has led to further discrimination, hate crimes, and lack of access to jobs and education, the petitioners asked the government to grant them formal recognition for the first time in India’s history.

“Transgenders are also citizens of India,” said the court in its order. “The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender.”

Federal and state governments will need to recognize the third gender on birth certificates, passports and driving licenses. The government will also consider transgender individuals a minority to help fill quotas in jobs and schools.

One of the petitioners in the case, transgender activist Laxmi Tripathi, told reporters outside the Delhi courthouse that the court’s decision will advance equality in India.

“Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian,” Tripathi said.

While India now recognizes the transgender community as a third gender, the ruling only applies to transgender people and not gays, lesbians or bisexuals. In December, the Supreme Court reversed a 2009 court order that decriminalized homosexuality, reinstating a ban on gay sex.

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