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The following issue was raised in Rajya Sabha on 26-06-2019 in respect to the “Reservation of Eunuchs”.

Will the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment be pleased to state:-

a) whether Government is aware that an estimated 5-6 million eunuchs live in the country, who are deprived, alienated and encounters hostilities since early childhood which are so deep and extreme that, at some point, finding no other social space, they exclude themselves;
(b) whether Government has directed or taken measures such as to provide reservation to help bring eunuchs into the mainstream; and
(c) if so, the details thereof?

Response by Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Shri Rattan Lal Kataria:

The Registrar General of India (RGI), during Enumeration of Census 2011, for the first time provided three codes i.e. Male-1, Female –2 and others -3 for enumeration. This was at the discretion of the respondent. In case the respondent wished to record neither ‘1’ nor ‘2’, then enumerator was instructed to record sex as ‘other’ and give code ‘3’. It is important to note that the Census of India does not collect any data specifically on ‘transgender’. Thus, the category of ‘other’ would not only include ‘transgender’ but also any person who desires to record sex under the category of ‘other’. It is also possible that some transgenders would have returned themselves either male or female depending upon their choice. The population of ‘other’ as per Census 2011 is 4,87,803.

An Expert Committee was constituted in the Ministry to make an in-depth study of the problems being faced by the Transgender Community and suggest suitable measures to ameliorate their conditions. The Committee submitted its report on 27th January 2014.  The Committee in its report has observed that the transgender community is a highly marginalized and vulnerable one and is seriously lagging behind on human development indices mainly in the area of education and employment.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its Judgment dated 15.04.2014 in WP(C) 400/2012 (NLSA Vs. UOI) directed, inter-alia, the Centre and State Governments to take steps to treat Transgenders as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and extend all kinds of reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.

In order to provide for the protection of rights of transgender persons and their welfare, the Ministry introduced a Bill titled “The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016” in the Lok Sabha on 2.8.2016, the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 17.12.2018.


[Press Release dt. 26-06-2019]

[Source: PIB & RajyaSabha.nic.in]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttarakhand High Court: Ravindra Maithani, J. has asked the State of Uttarakhand whether an Investigating Officer, by conducting DNA tests, has the right to determine the gender or sex of a transgender person who underwent a gender reassignment surgery.

The petitioner, in this case, had filed an FIR alleging she was raped, but the FIR was registered by the police under Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the Penal Code, 1860. She had identified herself as a female and also claimed that she had undergone gender reassignment surgery and had obtained a certificate declaring that she may be addressed as a “she”. She approached the High Court, contending that she had been harassed by the investigating officers by lodging the FIR as an unnatural offence instead of rape and addressing her as a male.

The Court took into consideration the matter being one of social importance and hence it needs to be observed strictly as it is not only touching the petitioner alone but many others who have faced such an issue. The Court reiterated what has been laid down in the landmark case National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438, wherein the petitioner’s “right to self-identification of gender” was denied and the Supreme Court rejected the age-old principle laid down in Corbett v. Corbett, (1970) 2 All ER 33 that an individual’s sexual constitution is fixed at birth and cannot be changed. The Hon’ble Supreme Court went on to prefer the “psychological test” instead of “biological test”. It stated “When we examine the rights of transsexual persons, who have undergone SRS, the test to be applied is not the “biological test”, but the “psychological test”, because psychological factor and thinking of transsexual has to be given primacy than binary notion of gender of that person. Seldom people realize the discomfort, distress and psychological trauma, they undergo and many of them undergo “gender dysphoria” which may lead to mental disorder. Discrimination faced by this group in our society, is rather unimaginable and their rights have to be protected, irrespective of chromosomal sex, genitals, assigned birth sex, or implied gender role.”

The Court questioned the acts of Investigating officers and the public servants and stated they have not taken into consideration the Supreme Court judgment. It asked the Home Secretary of the State of Uttarakhand to file an affidavit answering various questions as to how the Investigating Officer had the right to determine the sex or gender of the petitioner how could the Investigating Officer apply the “biological test” instead of the “psychological test” in light of the Supreme Court judgment.[Shilpi Lawrence Elenjikal v. State of Uttarakhand, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 28 of 2019, decided on 29-04-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

According to media reports, “Transgender” will no longer be categorised as a “mental disorder” by the World Health Organization (WHO) after major amendments in its health guidelines.

“United Nations’ health agency approved a resolution to remove “gender identity disorder” from its global manual of diagnoses. According to the newly-revised version of the International Classification of Diseases (known as ICD-11), published by the WHO, “gender identity disorders” have been reframed as “gender incongruence.” Gender nonconformity is now included in a chapter on sexual health, rather than being listed with “mental disorders”.

“In several countries around the world, the process of medically transitioning gender is based on the now-outdated ICD framework, which classifies being transgender as a “gender identity disorder” under the category of “mental disorders.”


[Source: TIME]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: In a landmark Judgment, G.R. Swaminathan, J. has held that a marriage solemnized between a male and a transwoman, both professing Hindu Religion, is a valid marriage in terms of Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Registrar of Marriages is bound to register the same. While holding so, said the Court, “this Court is not breaking any new ground. It is merely stating the obvious. Sometimes to see the obvious, one needs not only physical vision in the eye but also love in the heart.”

Facts

Arunkumar and Srija got married to each other in October, 2018 at a temple in Tuticorin as per Hindu rites and customs. It may be noted that Srija is a transgender. The marriage was certified by the Village Administrative Officer. The temple authorities where the marriage was performed, declined to vouch for it. When Arun and Srija went to register their marriage, the Joint Registrar refused the registration which was confirmed by the District Registrar. Challenging the refusal to register their marriage, Arunkumar and Srija filed the present petition.

Who is a “bride”

It was contended on behalf of the authorities that as per Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the “bride” must have completed that age of 18 years, and further that the term “bride” can only refer to a “woman on her day of wedding”. Srija, it was contended, is not a woman, but a transgender.

The Court did not agree with such a contention. It relied on the path-breaking judgment of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438 wherein the Supreme Court has upheld the transgender persons’ right to decide their self-identified gender. That decision has been cited with approval in K.S. Puttaswamy (Privacy-9 J.) v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1 and Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1. In the present case, the Court observed that: “the expression ‘bride’ occurring in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 cannot have a static or immutable meaning.” It was observed that a statute must be interpreted in the light of the legal system as it exists today. It was also noted that in Shafin Jahan v. Asikan K.M., (2018) 16 SCC 368the right to marry a person of one’s choice was held to be integral to Article 21 of the Constitution.

For too long the transgender persons/intersex people have been languishing in the margins. The Constitution of India is an enabling document. It is inviting them to join the mainstream. Therefore, it would be absurd to deny the transgenders the benefit of the social institutions already in place in the mainstream.”

The Court held: “Seen in the light of the march of law, the expression ‘bride’ occurring in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 will have to include within its meaning not only a woman but also a transwoman. It would also include an intersex person/transgender person who identifies herself as a woman. The duty consideration is how the person  perceives herself.”

Ban on sex reassignment surgeries on children

The Supreme Court in the NALSA case categorically stated that no one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including SRS, sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity. The High Court, however, noticed that the mandate in NALSA Case was not being honoured. The Court directed the Government of T.N. to issue a Government Order so as to effectively ban sex reassignment surgeries on infants and children. The Secretary to Government, Health and Family Welfare Department was directed to file a compliance report within 8 weeks.

“Any intersex child is entitled to and must stay within the folds of its family. The running away from the family to the margins and beyond is a fatal journey that must be arrested. Time has come when they are brought back from the margins into the mainstream.”

Financial incentive for inter-caste marriage 

The Court noted Arunkumar is a Hindu Kuravan and Srija belongs to Saiva Vellar community. The Government of India has introduced “Dr Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration through Inter-Caste Marriages” to encourage inter-caste marriages. Arunkumar and Srija were held to be clearly entitled to get a financial incentive as set out in the said scheme. They were permitted to submit an application to the Director, Ambedkar Foundation, who shall on being satisfied about their eligibility, disburse the incentive amount.

Decision

Holding that Srija’s fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1)(a), 21 and 25 have been infringed, the Court quashed the impugned orders and directed the Joint Registrar to register Arunkumar and Srija’s marriage. With the directions as noted above, the present petition was disposed of. [Arunkumar v. Inspector General of Registration, WP(MD) No. 4125 of 2019, dated 22-04-2019]