Last week, the Tamil Nadu State Government presented the draft of a new policy (Tamil Nadu Gender and Sexuality Minority LGBTQIA+) to the Madras High Court that includes a comprehensive range of recommendations for the betterment of transgender and intersex individuals.
The policy was made after consulting with nearly 240 people from the LGBTQ community.
The Madras High Court praised the state government's initiative in drafting a policy that aims to create a statutory state commission for sexual and gender minorities through the establishment of a constitution.
Justice N. Anand Venkatesh expressed in writing upon the unveiling of the draft as "a commendable stride towards recognising the rights of trans and intersex individuals... The policy’s consideration for specific sub-groups within the LGBTQIA+ community speaks to a nuanced approach to services, inclusion, and sensitisation.”
Hasan Mohammed Jinnah, the state public prosecutor, presented the draft policy to the court. The policy's lofty objectives, the judge noted, are a reflection of the policy drafters' persistent and conscientious efforts to create an atmosphere that encourages voluntary action and broadens outreach initiatives.
The prosecutor has requested three months for the state government to conduct discussions with stakeholders. The judge accepted the request and adjourned the case.
Meanwhile, he has instructed the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to continue the online registration of non-governmental organisations that are working for the LGBTQ community. Additionally, he ordered the National Council of Education Research and Training to create a module on sensitisation.
So, what does the policy recommend? Some of them are horizontal reservation in education, employment for transgender and intersex persons, imposing a bar on being fired from employment if employees undergo gender identity change, and inclusive norms across public and private sectors in hiring, retention, and promotion. The policy also aims for equal recognition of transmasculine (Tirunambi) and intersex people, similar to that of transfeminine (Tirunangai).
The policy also mandates that transmasculine and transfeminine inmates in prisons have separate cells and showers. It calls for protection from family violence against LGBTQ people, and the recognition of same-gender relationships by the Deed of Familial Association.
The Madras Court proposed the Deed of Familial Association last year that would allow couples to live with "some degree of protection, without being disturbed or harassed." Justice N. Anand Venkatesh proposed including this in a new policy being developed for the LGBTQIA+ community. He also wanted the government to create procedures for the registration of such deeds.
The complex policy addresses healthcare as a crucial resource the community is currently lacking. Among the basic healthcare services mentioned are sensitive gynaecological and reproductive health care for transmasculine people, lesbians, bisexuals, and pansexual women.
Additionally, it emphasises the immediate discontinuation of unethical practices such as the two-finger test for transmasculine individuals. It also stresses giving gender-affirming medical and surgical care with standard protocols based on the World Professional Association on Transgender Health Standards of Care.
Apart from this, it takes into account measures for non-discriminatory practices while getting access to housing, access to gender-neutral restrooms, and the ability to wear uniforms that are consistent with one’s self-determined identity or preferred gender in educational institutions.
It also suggested changing the existing Tamil name, Tirunangai Nala Variyam, to a more inclusive version, Tirunar Nala Variyam, to increase the representation of transmasculine and intersex people.
Last but not least, the policy asks for the ability to change the legal name and gender on academic certificates based on state or central Transgender ID cards only, to eradicate the current practice of asking for additional proofs or filing cases.
The court said, “The ambitious objectives of the policy reflect a conscientious effort to create an enabling environment, encourage voluntary action, and expand outreach activities. The emphasis on combating discrimination and violence against sexual and gender minorities, alongside the push for sensitization across various groups, signals a commendable endeavour to eradicate societal biases.”
To ensure a broader and increased response from the stakeholders, the court also stated that the policy needs to be translated into Tamil.
It noted that “there is an assurance that the operationalization of the policy will prioritize the benefits of individuals belonging to the transgender community.”
Edited by Kevin Moonuparayil
Photo Credit: Rawpixel
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