Bhopal- Despite multiple visits to the Aadhaar center, Kainaat, a transgender individual in Bhopal, faces an ongoing struggle to obtain her Aadhaar card due to discrepancies in her name on official documents. Unfortunately, her experience is not unique. Many transgender individuals in Bhopal share similar challenges, either encountering obstacles related to their names or facing difficulties in updating their gender and name information.
The transgender community across the country has long been subjected to social discrimination, despite the rhetoric of governments advocating for their rights. In practice, transgenders continue to be denied their fundamental constitutional rights and values. The economic and social conditions of the transgender community in Madhya Pradesh are particularly dire.
An estimated 35 thousand transgender individuals reside in Madhya Pradesh, and the state government has asserted its commitment to integrating them into the mainstream society. To facilitate this integration, several government schemes have been initiated. However, despite these efforts, transgender individuals are still not reaping the benefits of these government programs. A significant portion of this population is struggling with obtaining Aadhaar cards, and the primary hindrance lies in their current names.
The traditional practice in India involves a naming ceremony after the birth of a child, and the name chosen during this ceremony is officially recorded on documents such as birth certificates and marksheets. However, for transgender individuals, this name often undergoes a transformation once they join the Kinnar (transgender) community.
Upon becoming a part of the Kinnar community, members typically abandon their family names and identities, opting to keep their new name, chosen by the community or themselves, as their primary identifier. This name becomes central to their public identity. However, despite this important name change, their official documents continue to display their original names, creating a disconnect between their legal identity and their true identity within the transgender community.
This disparity in names on official documents and personal identity is the key reason why many transgender individuals in Madhya Pradesh face obstacles when attempting to obtain Aadhaar cards. The bureaucratic rigidity of the system fails to acknowledge their chosen names, making it challenging for them to access this vital identification document. This situation not only hampers their ability to participate in government welfare schemes but also highlights the need for a more inclusive and flexible system that respects and recognizes the identities of transgender individuals.
From a constitutional perspective, this situation is a clear violation of the fundamental values of dignity, privacy, equality, and justice for transgender individuals. Insisting on referring to members of the transgender community by their old names and identities infringes on their right to privacy. Furthermore, their inability to produce documents like an Aadhaar card that accurately represent their current identity is a grave injustice that undermines their right to equality and justice.
Moreover, the absence of an Aadhaar card has financial implications, as it prevents hundreds of transgender individuals from opening bank accounts. Banking institutions require Aadhaar cards for Know Your Customer (KYC) verification, making it a vital document for access to banking services. Kainaat, a transgender individual, pointed out this issue, highlighting the disparity between government claims of upliftment efforts for the transgender community and the practical challenges they face in obtaining essential documents like gender cetificates and Aadhaar cards.
The process of obtaining gender certificates poses further challenges for transgender individuals. These self-identity gender certificates are crucial, as they can be used to officially change names on documents such as Aadhaar cards and others. The Social Welfare Department has established facilities for issuing these certificates in all district headquarters. However, an inherent problem arises in this process - to obtain a gender certificate, individuals are required to possess an Aadhaar or Voter Card.
Speaking to The Mooknayak, transgender activist Sanjana Singh said, "Despite the government's claims of implementing schemes to uplift the transgender community, the ground reality paints a different picture. As a result, not a single government initiative aimed at ameliorating the plight of transgender individuals facing social discrimination has effectively materialized. This situation is further compounded by the significant problem of Aadhaar cards not being issued to transgender individuals, making it challenging to estimate the exact number affected, but it is likely that thousands among them have yet to obtain their Aadhaar cards."
The formation of a Transgender Board in Madhya Pradesh, aimed at the upliftment of the community, has also faced obstacles. Sanjana Singh highlighted that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance had prepared a policy and submitted it to the state's Social Justice Department in 2021. According to this policy, following the example of other states in the country, there was a recommendation to establish a Transgender Welfare Board in Madhya Pradesh. The cabinet approved this proposal in 2022. However, despite the approval, the board has not yet been formed.
Sanjana Singh stressed the importance of education in the development of transgender individuals. To address the lack of progress at the governmental level, she mentioned that efforts were being made by activists to connect transgender individuals, often referred to as "eunuchs," with educational opportunities.
Joint Director of the Social Justice Department, RK Singh, provided some insights into the process of issuing gender certificates. Applications for these certificates are accepted through an online process. After receiving applications, a thorough investigation is conducted, and certificates are subsequently issued. Currently, in Bhopal, certificates for 70 individuals have been issued. To apply, it is necessary to have an Aadhar Card, Samagra ID, or Voter Card. RK Singh also noted that it is challenging to determine how many more certificates will be issued in the future, as it depends on the number of applications received, and action will be taken accordingly.
Story Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai