For the first time in 45 years, the Rajya Sabha on Friday unanimously passed a private member’s bill to accord equal rights on transgenders. “It is a unanimous decision of the house… This is a rare thing,” Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien announced after the bill was passed by voice vote.
The central government, however, said it will bring an improved bill as DMK member Tiruchi Shiva’s bill has some practical difficulties. The government sources told IANS that they will bring a bill soon.
The transgender community, meanwhile, said it was happy to receive a “positive response” from all political parties.
The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, moved by Shiva, calls for equal rights and reservation to transgenders and envisages creation of a national commission and state level commissions for transgender communities.
“We all have human rights, whatever our gender identity. The bill I have presented is for an act which will create an equal society as it recognises and protects transgender persons, in all spheres of life,” Shiva said while moving the bill.
Talking to IANS later, the DMK member said: “Transgenders are as efficient as any one else. One transgender person asked me I pay my taxes, why don’t I have the rights?”
“Imagine they have gender written as female in their I-cards, but they cannot enter women’s compartment in trains,” he said.
The bill will now have to be taken up in the Lok Sabha, where a member from the lower house will have to pilot the bill. If the bill is passed, it will be sent for presidential assent and become an act thereafter.
“The procedure for a private member’s bill is same as any other bill. It will now go to the Lok Sabha, and if it is passed there, it will go to the president. If president signs it, it will become an act,” constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha secretary general Subhash C. Kashyap told IANS.
A senior minister told IANS: “Wide consultation is needed with different departments and ministries. There are many issues, for example if reservation is provided, how will it effect other reservations…”
In the Rajya Sabha, as Shiva pushed for putting the bill to vote, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said the government was in consultation with several departments to formulate a law for the transgenders and urged him to withdraw the bill.
“Emotionally, I agree with Shiva’s bill, but there are some technical problems… There is some impracticality in the bill,” he said. Shiva, however, remained adamant to put the bill to vote.
After an intervention by Leader of the House Arun Jaitley, who advocated for unanimously passing the bill, it was adopted through voice vote. The transgender community welcomed it.
“The bill received support from all political parties and this shows how they have become sensitive towards our issues and difficulties. I am sure it will smoothly pass in the Lok Sabha as well,” Reshma, a transgender from Patna, told IANS by phone.
Mumbai-based Gauri Sawant, a transgender, felt if the bill is passed in parliament smoothly, it will reinforce their identity in the country and also help them to get rid of the stigma.
Members of parliament other than ministers are called private members and bills presented by them are known as private members’ bills. Figures show since independence only 14 private members’ bills have been converted into legislative acts.
The last private member’s bill passed by parliament was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968, which became an act on August 9, 1970. (IANS)