MANASH PRATIM DUTTA
GUWAHATI, March 12 - The State Social Welfare Department recently published a revised edition of the State policy on transgenders by making some changes in the first draft.
Social Welfare Minister Pramila Rani Brahma told The Assam Tribune that the department has published the revised edition of the draft policy by rectifying all its drawbacks by adhering to all the norms and upper court judgements.
The State government will now organise a seminar soon to seek recommendations from all the stakeholders over the draft to formulate a final policy.
The State government has revised the first draft policy after the All Assam Transgender Association (AATA) approached it with a demand to make changes in it.
Earlier, the AATA had alleged that the draft State policy on transgenders had come up with a ‘draconian’ definition of ‘transgender,’ which not only violates the respect, dignity and prestige of the transgenders, but the very essence of the NALSA judgement.
AATA also opposed the decision to appoint the seniormost secretary of the Social Welfare Department to the vice chairman’s post in the State-level transgender welfare or justice board, as proposed in the recently-published draft policy, alleging that the policy has empowered the district-level board, but paralysed the State-level board with lesser functions.
It also pointed out that there was no need for a sub-committee under the district-level committee as the members included in it, including the transgender representative, are competent enough to handle the applications pending before them for identification, and then refer them to the State-level committee.
In the revised policy, the State government has adopted the definition of transgender formulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which defines transgender as “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and expression does not conform to the norms and expectations traditionally associated with the sex assigned to them at birth; it includes people who are transsexual, transgender or otherwise considered gender non-conforming”.
The revised draft also declares appointment of a transgender activist or representative of the TG community as associate vice chairperson of the State Transgender Welfare Board.
According to the revised draft policy, the State-level Transgender Welfare Board will monitor and oversee implementation of the TG policy and review the work of the Transgender Support Unit (TSU). It will suggest policy and institutional reforms that enable access to socio-economic development schemes for the poor TGs and at-risk TG groups.
The State-level board will also ensure convergence of existing schemes across departments for a more targeted and focused approach towards ensuring the wellbeing of the TG community and issue guidelines as and when necessary to ensure equality and equity of TGs in all other activities of the board.
In the revised draft policy, the Social Welfare Department has stated that the transgender community in the country has been confronted by a variety of social, cultural, economic and psychological issues that expose them to a high risk of isolation, discrimination and social exclusion and, consequently, impact their basic right to a life with dignity, equality and non-discrimination on the ground of gender identity.
The revised draft policy also says, “The transgender policy developed for Assam signifies the government’s attempt at an understanding of the factors responsible for marginalisation of the transgender community and its efforts to mitigate their problems by seeking to identify the causal and reinforcement factors that result in the social vulnerability of transgenders living in the State.
The policy aims at delineating principles and identifying priority areas for implementing various programmes for the welfare and protection of the rights of members of the transgender community. It seeks to thereby create an environment where a transgender can live a full life with dignity; where both equality and non-discrimination on ground of gender identity and other rights are assured.”
Clarifying the difference between sex and gender, the revised draft policy says, “Sex is assigned at birth and refers to one’s biological status as either male or female. It is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy.
On the other hand, gender is primarily a social construct. It refers to the roles, behaviour, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for its male and female members. Gender identity refers to a person’s innermost and individual sense of self as male, female or a blend of both or neither, that can either correspond to or not correspond to the sex assigned at birth. Gender expression is viewed as a person’s presentation of his gender identity and the one that is perceived by others.”