The present judgement of Supreme Court does seem to offer some amount of hope and relied to a community that has been systematically maltreated and discriminated against for centuries and has lived constantly under the shadow of exploitation, trafficking, harassment and lack of control over bodily autonomy.
Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. Transgender people are sometimes called transsexual if they desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another. Transgender is also an umbrella term : in addition to including people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex (trans men and trans women), it may include people who are not exclusively masculine or feminine (people who are gender queer or non binary, including bi gender , pan gender , gender fluid, or a gender).
Though they had an extremely fluid representation in Indian mythology and traditional folklore, with the advent of colonial era that brought along with it the victorian idea of suppressed sexuality, marginalised and pushed this group to the fringes of society. Though attempts have been made for reconstructing their identity and including them in society; the efforts are either half hearted or lost in political tensions and turmoils.
Since 2014, transgender people in India have been allowed to change their gender without sex reassignment surgery, and have a constitutional right to register themselves under a third gender. On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional. The Court unanimously ruled that individual autonomy, intimacy, and identity are protected fundamental rights.
The trans community is currently battling the state to stop the Transgender Persons (Protection Of Rights) Bill, which has been labelled a ‘death sentence’ by the community. Amid the bleakness, the Delhi High Court’s latest ruling is a ray of light. The Delhi High court has ruled section 354A of the Indian Penal Code seats with sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment. This decision was taken in light of the refusal of the police to entertain a petition regarding sexual harassment filed by a transgender student of Delhi University who wanted to file a complaint against her male peers who allegedly sexually harassed her, but the lack of an appropriate penalty code section hampered the process and a case was filed regarding then same.
“The Petitioner is painfully aware that she was sexually harassed because of her gender identity and expression, which is that of a transgender woman. The Petitioner is also aware that she was denied a legal remedy because of her gender identity and expression as a transgender woman,” the petitioner had stated in her appeal to the court. The initial interpretation of the article according to the petitioner only offered protection to a “woman”, an example of heteronormative patriarchy at its worst and a grave violation of fundamental rights promised to every Indian citizen irrespective of their gender.
While the division bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked the Central government to make clear its stand on the issue, this did not happen. The Delhi police, however, intervened and registered the petitioner’s FIR under section 354A of the IPC and proceeded to investigate the case.
With this response the case wasn’t pressed further and dropped by the petitioner.
Though this is minuscule in terms of the agenda of social political and economic equality that the trans genders are supposed to achieve, however placed in the current political and social scenario which is extremely unfavourable towards them its is a massive achievement. The community after decades of struggle had managed to at least achieve the basic right to have their grievances heard and have redressal measures implemented.
Feature Image Credits: The Indian Express