Date : 29/11/2023
Relevance: GS Paper 2 – Social Justice
Keywords: SDGs, LNOB, Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019,
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global initiative led by the United Nations (UN), presents a comprehensive framework to address pressing global challenges and establish a more equitable and sustainable future. At its core are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), serving as a blueprint for achieving peace, prosperity, and social justice for both people and the planet. One overarching theme of the SDGs is "Leaving no one behind" (LNOB), emphasizing the eradication of discrimination and reduction of inequalities worldwide based on the UN human rights framework.
Historical Context of Transgender Rights in India:
The term "transgender" serves as an umbrella encompassing individuals whose gender identity differs from their assigned gender at birth. In the South Asian socio-cultural context, India has a rich history of the 'Hijras,' representing one segment of the transgender community. Historical references to this community can be found in temple carvings and religious scriptures, with hijras holding prestigious positions even during the Mughal era. However, British colonial practices in 1871 marked them as "criminals" under the Criminal Tribes Act, leading to institutionalized marginalization that persists today.
Challenges Faced by the Transgender Community in India:
The transgender community in India faces significant barriers in accessing healthcare, education, housing, and employment. Stigma, discrimination, and violence are pervasive in their daily lives, fueled by societal biases and institutional inadequacies.
- Discrimination and Ostracization:
Members of the transgender community encounter discrimination in various aspects of their lives, including employment, education, and even within their own families. This pervasive discrimination significantly impacts their overall well-being.
- Identity Crisis:
Despite the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, which grants the community the right to self-perceived gender identity, transgender individuals often find themselves compelled to identify with a gender that does not align with their true identity, particularly in the workplace.
- Social Stigma:
Transgender individuals frequently face challenges related to property inheritance and child adoption due to social stigma. Social ostracization often forces them into menial jobs, irrespective of their qualifications, or compels some to engage in sex work as a means of survival.
Limited employment opportunities and pervasive discrimination at the workplace contribute to high levels of unemployment within the transgender community. The associated social stigma further exacerbates the challenges they face in securing and maintaining employment.
- Lack of Public Amenities:
Accessibility issues extend to public spaces, toilets, and various institutions such as prisons, hospitals, and schools, where transgender individuals encounter difficulties. The lack of accommodating public amenities further compounds the challenges they confront in their daily lives.
- Legal Strides and Challenges:
Over the past decade, India has made progress in advancing transgender rights, including the decriminalization of consensual same-sex relationships in 2018 and the enactment of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2019. These legal strides aim to safeguard transgender individuals' rights across various sectors, such as education, healthcare, and the workplace. However, the implementation of these measures faces challenges, hindering their actualization
Alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals:
- Aligning with the SDGs provides India with international commitments and best practices related to gender equality, inclusivity, and human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Yogyakarta Principles underscore the imperative of ensuring the rights and well-being of transgender persons globally. SDG 1 aims to eradicate multidimensional poverty, recognizing that transgender individuals are at greater risk due to systemic exclusion from economic, housing, and employment structures.
- Education Disparities and Economic Opportunities:
SDG 4 focuses on education, revealing a crucial factor hindering economic opportunities for transgender individuals. A National Human Rights Commission Survey in 2018 found that 96 percent of transgender individuals in India face employment discrimination, often relegated to low-paying or exploitative occupations. The non-inclusive nature of schools contributes to high dropout rates and low pass percentages among transgender individuals, emphasizing significant educational disparities.
- Inclusivity in Economic Growth (SDG 8) and Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10):
While SDG 5, focusing on gender equality, does not explicitly encompass gender non-conforming identities, SDG 8 seeks to promote inclusive economic growth and quality employment opportunities—crucial for marginalized groups like the transgender community. SDG 10, focused on reducing inequalities, emphasizes inclusive social, economic, and political inclusion without discrimination. This broad inclusion could encompass gender non-conforming individuals, addressing the needs of the transgender community.
Initiatives for Transgender Persons
A. Union Government Initiatives
Enacted by the Parliament, this law is designed to eliminate discrimination against transgender persons in various facets of life, including education, employment, and healthcare. It acknowledges the right to self-perceived gender identity.
Facilitated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, this portal streamlines the process for transgender individuals to digitally apply for a Certificate and Identity card from any location in the country. Notably, it minimizes physical interactions and office visits, offering transparency in application status monitoring.
This initiative aims to provide shelter to transgender persons, offering essential amenities such as housing, food, medical care, and recreational facilities. Additionally, it supports capacity-building and skill development, empowering community members to lead lives marked by dignity and respect.
Established in accordance with the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, this council serves multiple functions for the welfare of the transgender community. These include advising the Central Government on policies, monitoring program impacts, coordinating departmental activities, addressing grievances, and fulfilling other roles as prescribed by the Central Government.
The Union government is actively considering reservations for the transgender community within the OBC (Other Backward Classes) category, specifically in employment opportunities.
Formulated by the government, these rules are crafted to implement the provisions outlined in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
B. Initiatives by State Governments
Several Indian states are at the forefront of championing transgender rights.
- Odisha has implemented a dedicated transgender policy to boost the social and economic well-being of the community.
- Karnataka made history by introducing a 1 percent reservation for transgender individuals in recruitment rules and implementing welfare measures to address issues like high dropout rates.
- Tamil Nadu has incorporated transgender individuals into the Most Backward Classes (MBC) category, recognizing and addressing their social and economic needs.
The SDGs, serving as a global guide for sustainable development, play a crucial role in shaping inclusive policies. While SDG 5 does not explicitly mention the transgender community, overlooking these identities contradicts the fundamental principle of "Leaving no one behind." The implementation of SDGs within an inclusive environment is essential, considering how these goals can be incorporated into India's development agenda for the transgender community. The journey towards sustainable development must prioritize the rights and well-being of all, including transgender individuals, to truly achieve a more equitable and just future for India and the world.
Source- The Hindu