Queer Community Awaits TN Government Response to Draft Policies

The suggested policy incorporates prompt actions to cease unethical practices in gender-affirming care, ensuring the delivery of respectful and ethically sound healthcare for the LGBTQIA+ community.
A pride-goer holding a placard
A pride-goer holding a placardSource- TIME Magazine

Chennai- Queer individuals are eagerly anticipating the government's response to the draft submitted by the 11-member committee established in June 2023 to formulate comprehensive policies for the community. The clock is ticking for many, reflecting a sense of anticipation. This follows a public consultation meeting held in the city on January 20th.

For a better understanding, The Mooknayak spoke to Professor Tiju Thomas, who is a member of the drafting committee and a professor at IIT Madras about the public consultation process and a few aspects of the draft.

Opening about the stage the draft is currently in, Thomas responded, “The positive development is that the draft has been submitted to the Commissionerate of Social Work. It is currently undergoing a new internal review process with them. There is a potential for an internal study of the draft. Nevertheless, the key insights derived from our understanding of the community have been thoroughly distilled. Broadly speaking, the draft has been intricately linked to the fundamental rights acknowledged and accepted for all citizens of our country.”

Various aspects of the constitution have been taken into consideration while drafting the policies. The professor claimed, “We've guided the draft within the framework of fundamental rights, including dignity, equality, and protection against discrimination. This spans freedom of expression, remedies, employment, health, education, residency, and the vital right to relationships—a pivotal aspect of our social existence. This consolidation incorporates diverse inputs from community members, aligning them with the rights universally upheld, acknowledged, and accepted in our country.”

Experiences of groups and sub-groups have been taken into account as well. Thomas revealed that almost all gender and sexual minorities were engaged in discussions to make sure everyone feels seen. “The draft is based on consultations with various subgroups within the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, divided into six parts. These include gay, bisexual, and pansexual individuals; queer-identifying men; lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual women; trans women and trans feminine persons; trans men and trans masculine persons; individuals with intersex variations; and non-binary persons. The draft explicitly identifies and addresses the issues faced by each subgroup, citing relevant information like the WHO document for intersex variations. It recommends potential remedies for the challenges faced by each subgroup,” Tiju Thomas claimed.

He further explained, “The remedies fall into three categories: rights, reservations, and welfare schemes, particularly designed keeping in mind trans and intersex persons due to their unique medical needs. Recommendations are addressing cross-cutting areas like services, inclusion, and sensitization for all identified categories within LGBQ and Eclipse. We have also proposed implementation modalities for these recommendations in our country, specifically in our state.”

When asked about his expectations, the IIT Madras professor expressed, “The government is actively involved in this draft. The Commissionerate, responsible for its creation, studied the situation and collaborated with all stakeholders to generate the document for submission to the government. While we were aware of our timelines, the internal timelines within government bodies are not known to me. However, considering their proactive engagement and multiple follow-ups, there seems to be positive momentum. The government bodies have likely been guided by internal guidelines and timelines, and the overall direction is promising, given the proactive approach and external directives, such as those from the high court.”

Key Insights of the Consultation

While the finalization of the draft is still in progress, the meeting provided a glimpse into some key aspects addressing the welfare and safety of the LGBTQIA+ community. The committee members revealed that the draft comprises a total of 41 policy measures. One noteworthy inclusion is the proposal for horizontal reservation in education and employment specifically for transgender and intersex individuals in the state.

The draft policy also addresses crucial areas such as insurance coverage, inclusive healthcare, and an important prohibition on corrective surgeries for intersex infants and children. Furthermore, it advocates for fundamental rights, including the right to inheritance and the right to hold public office, ensuring equal opportunities and representation for all individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community. The ongoing commitment to inclusive policymaking reflects a significant step towards recognizing and safeguarding the rights of marginalized communities in the region.

The additional policy clauses encompass a range of critical aspects to ensure the holistic well-being and protection of the LGBTQIA+ community. These provisions include measures to prevent birth family violence and harassment, specifically addressing issues like corrective rape. The policy underscores the principle of non-discrimination, advocating for equal access to housing, banking services, and essential facilities. Additionally, it proposes the establishment of short stay shelters for individuals and couples facing violence from their families of origin.

In a bid to foster inclusivity, the policy supports the introduction of gender-neutral restrooms and hostels in educational institutions, recognizing the significance of creating safe and supportive environments. It emphasizes the importance of providing sensitive gynecological and sexual/reproductive health care to address the unique healthcare needs of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Beyond individual well-being, the policy promotes the integration of LGBTQIA+ inclusive arts and literature within existing cultural organizations. It introduces a robust mechanism for lodging complaints and seeking redressal in cases of unethical practices in medical institutions, reinforcing the imperative of ethical healthcare.

In the educational realm, the policy endeavors to safeguard against bullying, ragging, and physical/sexual violence in schools and higher education institutions. It affirms the right to wear uniforms or clothing consistent with one's self-determined gender identity and/or preferred gender expression.

Furthermore, the policy seeks legal recognition of same-gender families through mechanisms such as a Deed of Family Association or other existing relationship establishment methods. It underscores the importance of anti-harassment and inclusive policies across both public and private sectors to cultivate a more supportive environment for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

In addressing labor rights, the policy advocates for protection from discrimination in the unorganized work sector, urging the Labor Department to establish and enforce anti-discrimination policies. Lastly, it calls for the enforcement of regulations against harassment of LGBTQIA+ individuals and activists/NGOs, ensuring a safer and more inclusive environment for the community.

The proposed policy includes immediate measures to halt unethical practices in gender-affirming care, ensuring the provision of respectful and ethically sound healthcare for the LGBTQIA+ community. Additionally, it advocates for the recognition and adoption rights of typical families, encompassing those in heterosexual relationships, fostering a more inclusive and equitable adoption process.

The policy aligns with directives from Home Ministries regarding the incarceration of transgender individuals, emphasizing the importance of preventing intrusive body checks and ensuring separate cells and shower facilities to uphold their dignity and privacy.

Furthermore, the proposal urges the existing Transgender Welfare Board to explicitly include intersex persons within its scope, acknowledging that intersex individuals fall under the definition of 'transgender' in the Transgender Rights Act (2019) and Rules (2020). Additionally, it requests a change in the Tamil name of the Transgender Welfare Board to 'Thirunar Nala Vaariyam' to better reflect inclusivity, as the current term 'thirunangai' only refers to trans women. The policy emphasizes the necessity for adequate representation of transmasculine individuals (thirunambis) and intersex people on the Board to ensure diverse perspectives and experiences are considered in decision-making processes.

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