Lucknow- Two years ago, the establishment of the Uttar Pradesh Transgender Welfare Board marked a pivotal step towards recognizing and addressing the multifaceted challenges faced by the transgender community. However, despite this significant initiative by the government, numerous hurdles and complexities persist in ensuring the full realization of the rights and welfare of the transgender population.
While the creation of the Board signalled a proactive approach to tackle issues surrounding social stigma, discrimination, and economic disparities, the journey towards comprehensive inclusion and protection continues to encounter formidable challenges. The path to ensuring the effective implementation of policies and the safeguarding of transgender rights remains a critical and evolving process, demanding sustained efforts, adaptation, and sensitivity from both the government and society at large.
The Uttar Pradesh Transgender Welfare Board or the Uttar Pradesh Kinnar Welfare Board was established in 2021. The Board was constituted through a government order with 23 members.
The term "hijra" is often used negatively to affront men, denoting a lack of manhood and impotency in virility. It has become a veritable synonym for cowardice. Hijras are characterized by their non-binary gender identity, which does not conform to the traditional binary concepts of male and female. While hijras are recognized as a unique gender category in South Asia, they have historically faced significant stigma and discrimination.
Social discrimination has also led to a lack of employment opportunities for them, resulting in a historical reliance on begging, sex work, or performing at events for their economic survival.
In India, the Supreme Court recognized hijras as a third gender in 2014 in the historic National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) vs Union of India, granting them legal recognition and certain rights. The judgment said, "Transgender persons’ right to decide their gender is also upheld, and the Centre and State Government are directed to grant legal recognition for their gender identity, such as male, female, or as the third gender."
However, the implementation and protection of their rights pose a significant challenge for the government due to the stigma attached to their identity.
West Bengal became the first state to establish the Transgender Development Board in 2014.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 aimed to provide legal protection to the transgender community and prevent discrimination against them. The Act mandates that the government shall take welfare measures as prescribed to protect the rights and interests of transgender persons, facilitating their access to welfare schemes framed by the Government. The act also prohibits discrimination, stating that "No establishment shall discriminate against any transgender person in any matter relating to employment, including, but not limited to, recruitment, promotion, and other related issues."
The Uttar Pradesh Transgender Welfare Board or the Uttar Pradesh Kinnar Welfare Board was established in 2021. The Board was constituted through a government order with 23 members. The composition of the Board is as follows:
- Chairman: Hon. Minister of Social Welfare - Asim Arun, Minister of State (Independent Charge), is currently serving as the Chairman of the Board.
- Vice Chairman: Ms. Sonam Chisty, a representative of the Transgender community, is serving as the vice Chairman in the Board.
- Member Secretary: Shri Rakesh Kumar, who serves as the Director in the Social Welfare Department, is the member secretary of the board.
- Members: 5 representatives of the transgender community and 2 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working for the transgender community to serve as members.
- Ex-officio Member: Secretaries of various departments and Lucknow Police Commissioner.
The term of the non-official members of the Board is for 3 years, and the Board is required to meet once every three months. The other priority of the Board is to provide transgender people with identity cards so that they have better access to healthcare, educational facilities, jobs, and social security.
The government order also envisaged setting up a Transgender Support Unit, which was entrusted with presenting the annual reports of the welfare schemes. However, the state government does not run any specific schemes for the transgender community but implements schemes of the Central government like SMILE (Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise).
Apart from the Board, special committees for the transgender community have been set up in all the districts to decentralize the process of the community's welfare, headed by District Magistrates.
Speaking to the Mooknayak, Srinivas Dwivedi, Deputy Director at the Social Welfare Department, said, "A Transgender Security Cell has been constituted at the State level under DGP (Director General of Police) and at the district level under DM (District Magistrate). Further, the state government has also directed that old-age transgenders be accommodated in the old-age homes run by the Social Welfare department."
The security cell constituted by the government adheres to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, and Rule (5), which mandatorily provide the setting up of a "Transgender Protection Cell" under the charge of the Director General of Police in the state and a District Magistrate in each district to monitor cases of offenses against transgender individuals.
A first-of-its-kind transgender community desk was established following the recommendation of the transgender welfare Board and was inaugurated by DCP, west of Lucknow, Somen Barma.
Notably, it was the Gachibowli police station, Cyberabad of Hyderabad in Telangana, which inaugurated the first transgender community desk in India.
According to the 2011 Census, Uttar Pradesh has 1.37 lakh people belonging to the transgender community.
While the transgender community is making its presence felt by making significant strides in the fields of politics, administration, culture, etc., the persistent discrimination faced by the community can’t be overlooked. The Transgender Welfare Board in Uttar Pradesh is expected to address these issues proactively.