Matha B. Manjamma Jogati, a transgender folk dancer of Jogamma heritage, was recently honoured with Padma Award, one of the highest civilian honours of India which was conferred by the President of India H.E. Mr. Ram Nath Kovind.
Transgender people have a traditional place of honour in Indian culture, examples of which have been mentioned even in ancient epic texts such as Ramayana and Mahabharata. In present time also India has been leading the way to support the transgender community by actions, some of the recent ones are mentioned below.
Transgender people have been part of the Indian society for centuries. Even the Indian scriptures mention God as Ardha-Narishvara. Various actions have been taken by the Government to ensure welfare of Transgender community which includes:
Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 was enacted, which comprehensively prohibits discrimination against transgender persons in all spheres of life and imposes obligations on the state to secure their inclusion in society by providing social security, education and health facilities. The Act along with the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 gives effect to the right to self- perceived gender identity and mandate issuance of the certificate of identity solely on the basis of affidavit submitted by the person “without any medical examination.” Penalty is prescribed under the law for violence, abuse of transgender persons, for restraining them from public places, removal from residence or for subjecting them to forced labour.
National Portal for Transgender Persons: To facilitate application for certificate and identity card by transgender persons in a digital mode, the National Portal for Transgender Persons was made operational in November 2020, which offers an end-to-end online facility for this purpose.
Government schemes: The Government of India is working on an umbrella scheme to address issues of access to health, education, welfare, skill upgradation, shelter and economic support and livelihood for the transgender community.
- In November 2020, the first of its kind shelter home called ‘Garima Greh’ was inaugurated to provide shelter, food, medical care, recreational facilities, and support for capacity-building and skill development. Ten cities have been identified to establish thirteen such shelter homes.
- Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has allocated funds to National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation for conducting skill development of members of transgender community.
- Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2020 provides for inclusion of Transgender community into all conversations related to gender equity as well as promote their representation in science, technology and innovation.
- Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), a short-term skill development programme, launched in 2015 was reoriented as PMKVY 3.0 with an enhanced component for the specially marginalised groups including women and transgender.
Initiatives by States: Various States in India have adopted initiatives to develop and improve the quality of life of transgender persons, including launching of an umbrella scheme by the state of Odisha called Sweekruti to create an enabling environment to ensure equal opportunities, equity, social justice and empowerment of transgender persons.
Recognition in government forms/applications: Third gender is now an official category reflected in various government applications and platforms. In 2005, the third gender option was included in the Indian passport, a move in which India was well ahead of several Western countries. In 2005, however, the third option was ‘E’ symbolising eunuch, but following the 2014 ruling of the apex court, in March 2015, those filling the online passport application form had the option of choosing ‘transgender’ apart from ‘male’ or ‘female’ in the gender category. In August 2013, AADHAAR, India’s Unique Identification Service recognized transgender as a separate category under the head of gender, and granted 1,600 transgender persons unique identification cards. Also, The Reserve Bank of India in April 2015 had directed banks to include a ‘third gender’ option in all their forms and applications. In 2016, the Indian Railways and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) added ‘transgender/third gender’ to the gender category along with the other categories. Most recently, the official COVID-19 vaccine portal, CoWIN, has included three gender categories: male, female and others.