The NRC in Assam left about 2,000 transgender people from its final list compelling them to approach the apex court. Assam’s first transgender judge and the petitioner in this case Swati Bidhan Baruah said that the objection applications available during the NRC process did not contain a check box of “others” while marking sex of an individuals. This forced the members of the community to accept mark male or female as their sex. The exclusion, has thus, already begun.
Transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of people located at different points on the sex and gender spectrum. The community includes but is not limited to transgenders, trans-sexuals, intersex, hijra, gender queer, gender non-confirming, non-binary people and many more.
But in a country where there is limited understanding of the difference between sex and gender, and where the word gender is often used instead of sex because of the taboo associated with the word sex which is in turn reduced to refer to only the sexual act, the community has paid a heavy price. Recently, a downright regressive law was passed purportedly to empower Transgender persons, but the law itself virtually took away all agency and right to identify from the community. It essentially painted an extremely diverse community with the same brush and largely equated the transgender identity with the intersex identity, which is a very narrow vision.
Concerns of the community
The documents required to prove one’s citizenship, whether it is for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, or the propose National Population Register (NPR), require individuals to have agency over their functioning Indian society, a privilege that has not been accorded to many groups.
What about those who will not be able to access their documents at all? What if they have been disowned by their families? What if they have a different name from what was on their birth certificate? What if their sexual identity is different from what is marked on their school leaving certificate? What if they do not know who their parents are because they were abandoned at birth?
The transgender community consists of people living new identities, away from their families. Queer rights activist Rituparna Borah termed the new law to be fascist and against the interests of the community. “Many trans people do not have documents in the names they have chosen for themselves. How will they prove that ‘I am the same person’? Many LGBTQ children are thrown out of the house because of their identity. How will they prove their lineage?” Borah said. “We challenge biological families and we choose our own families. Why are you pushing us towards our biological families who are oppressive towards women and the queer community,” she questioned.
Many transgender people do not have ties with the families they were born into, many probably do not know the whereabouts of their families to procure such documents. This entire process is in itself a tedious one and could lead to more trauma than what this community already faces in the society.
On January 3, the queer community came out to protests against CAA and NRC on the occasion of birth anniversary of 19th century social reformer, Savitribai Phule. Protests took place in various cities, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad being few of them.
The law is deemed to be discriminative not just along religious lines but stands to adversely affect women, the marginalised sections of the society, informal labour force, unorganised workers, Dalits as well. Hence, the fight against CAA-NPR-NRC is intersectional and beyond just communal lines which is a narrative that needs to be fed into the minds of people so they understand the potentially long-lasting consequences of the law. People need to understand that people are out on the streets fighting for the injustices of not just one religion but all these communities of which the society is comprised.
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