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Landmark study finds entrenched discrimination against transgender people

Graphic: Portait photo of a transgender woman with white head scarf

Transgender people in India experience widespread discrimination and severe isolation, the National Human Rights Commission said in a new study.

The rights of transgender people in India are "largely compromised" and they experience entrenched discrimination and severe isolation within their communities, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said in a landmark study.

The study, conducted by Kerala Development Society on behalf of the NHRC, is the first of its kind in India.

It found that transgender people face an identity crisis in "gender-specific India", where everything – from public utilities such as toilets, security checks at airports, ration cards, PAN cards and driving licenses – has gender identification.

The study also highlighted alarming levels of discrimination and exclusion, including:

  • 99% of transgender people experienced social rejection on multiple occasions
  • 52% transgender people experienced harassment by school classmates and 15% experiencing it from their teachers, leading them to drop out of their studies
  • 96% of transgender people forced to take low-paying or undignified work, such as their livelihood such as begging and sex work

"They are totally invisible in all spheres of economic activities," the study observed. "Low level of education and social exclusion limits their employment and livelihood opportunities."


Graphic: People marching together under a rainbow flag


The report also found that transgender people are commonly denied accommodation and, in relation to access to justice, they fail to report crimes because of harassment they experience at the hands of police.

The NHRC said that the experience of discrimination begins in childhood.

"Parents do not play a proactive role in the case of transgender children. Instead, the children suffer verbal and corporal abuses at the hands of their parents, siblings and other family members," the report stated.

"Most keep their transgender identity secret until it is impossible for them to hide it. Most parents consider their status as physical and mental defects", according to the NHRC, adding that transgender people also do not enjoy any legal right in the property inheritance.

India had failed to implement the Supreme Court guidelines from the NALSA (National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India) judgement or bring laws to improve the lives of the transgender people.

"The Centre and the states have not implemented the order fully and effectively," the NHRC said, adding "there is no clarity on the status of transgender people".

Tamil Nadu is the only state in India which has taken steps to address the human rights violations faced by transgender people, providing individuals with education, identity cards, subsidised food and free housing.

The NHRC said that there is a need to pass legislation and look to international practices to deal with discrimination against transgender people in India.

The report is available on the NHRC website at: http://nhrc.nic.in/research_completed.htm

Date: 20 August 2018


Image credits

  1. Portait photo of a transgender woman with white head scarf - WBK Photography, Flickr creative commons
  2. People marching together under a rainbow flag - Vinayak Das, Flickr; http://bit.ly/2sj80jU