On October 27, 2017, the Karnataka Government introduced a State Policy for Transgender Persons, a much-needed step for the social integration of the transgender community. The Cabinet approved the Policy three years after it was first framed, on the back of the landmark NALSA Judgement where the Supreme Court recognized the right to gender identity for transgender persons and directed the Centre and State Governments to take steps to ensure protection of their rights. Karnataka now joins the exclusive company of Kerala and Tamil Nadu as the only three States in the country that have framed a dedicated policy for the benefit of the transgender community.
The Karnataka Policy suggests the term ‘transgender’ be used instead of ‘third gender’, thereby enlarging its scope to include ‘Jogappas’, ‘Hijras’, and ‘Intersex persons’ among others. It assures social protection to transgender persons to include access to basic amenities such as sanitation, housing, health facilities, and provisions for education and employment. One of the major problems faced by the transgender community today is social discrimination. The Policy has primarily sought to remedy the same, by focusing on sensitization of society to the transgender community. To do so in an effective manner, the Policy seeks to establish a Cell for Transgender Persons under the Directorate of Women and Child Development. The Cell will operate not only at the State level, but also at the District level to ensure that policy is efficiently implemented. These Cells are empowered to perform tasks ranging from issuing ID Cards and initiating welfare schemes, to conducting public sensitization programmes through mass media.
To further address the stigma, discrimination and violence faced by trans persons, the Policy has sought to create counselling centres, to not only generate awareness and sensitize parents to accept their gender non-conforming children, but also for children to cope with the trauma of violence and abuse.
The Policy has made an attempt to include the private sector as well. Workplaces in the public and private sector must include and implement anti-discrimination policies at all levels. Further, it has mandated that workplace sexual harassment policies should be made transgender inclusive.
To ensure there is no misuse of the benefits granted through the Policy, it provides for a detailed identification and certification process at the District level, with the help of NGOs to make the process more transparent, efficient and accessible.
One of the primary objectives of the Policy is to establish an accountability mechanism to ensure that schemes and programmes created are working efficiently for the benefit of trans persons. A Monitoring Committee is to be formed in this regard, consisting of Government employees, at least four non-official members from the transgender community, and experts in the field.
The Karnataka State Policy for Transgenders, 2017 has thus largely identified and sought to address the stigma and discrimination faced by the transgender community. The Policy however, is still just a stepping stone. The state government needs to ensure that this Policy will pave the way for the transgender community to exercise and enjoy their constitutional rights in reality.
This post was written by Kartikeya Garg and Naira Dar.