The Government of Karnataka drafted and published a detailed Karnataka State Policy on transgender persons in 2017. The policy acknowledges the Supreme Court decision in NALSA v. Union of India, recognises the structural discrimination faced by transgender persons and the lack of recognition of their rights in various criminal and civil statutes.
The objective of the policy is to empower transgender persons and protect their fundamental rights. It encourages all departments of the Government to include the development of transgender persons in their programmes and schemes. The policy covers areas of health, education, housing, and employment etc, which have been set out in the Annexures.
The policy is broad in scope and includes various categories of transgender persons i.e. transgender men and women, jogappas, jogtas, hijras, kothis. It clarifies that the term ‘transgender’ should be preferred over ‘third gender’.
The policy adopts a three-step approach – (a) enforcement of constitutional guarantees of equal access, non-discrimination, and dignity, (b) identification of responsible State institutions and departments, and (c) defining accountability mechanisms. In line with this, the policy proposes empowerment, enabling, remedial, and sustainability measures.
Empowerment measures aim at addressing the aspirations and ensuring inclusion of transgender persons. Self-identification of gender is one such mechanism. The measures include directions to Government authorities to follow non-discriminatory practices on legal aspects, access to public resources and spaces. This closely ties with remedial measures which range from encouraging the institution of anti-discrimination policies at workplaces and providing safe residence to discouraging negative media portrayal.
The policy also specifically identifies enabling measures such as estimation of resources for implementation of the policy, framing guidelines for implementation, monitoring responsible Government departments and sensitisation of parents, teachers, doctors, police etc. Sustainability measures envisage provision of scholarships, opportunities for skill enhancement and convergence of existing schemes to include transgender persons.
IMPLEMENTATION OF MEASURES
The Policy will be implemented through four agencies – Cell for Transgender Persons, Transgender Support Unit, Co-ordination Committee and Monitoring Committee.
The Cell for Transgender Persons is primarily in charge of initiating welfare programmes, issuing identification cards and conducting sensitisation programmes. The process of identification will be transparent, non-intrusive and empowering. The committee will issue identification cards based on a self-declared affidavit. This card will be acceptable before all authorities for indicating gender on other official documents. The policy also provides that transgender persons can access counselling centres established for victims of violence.
The policy identifies a list of legislations and provisions requiring amendment to cover transgender persons. This includes Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, the Juvenile Justice Act, laws on discrimination at the workplace etc. It also notes that police stations should specifically record information and statistics on crime against transgender persons. Significantly, the policy mentions that the existing legal aid authority will provide legal assistance to transgender persons facing harassment and should take steps to provide free legal aid.
In addition, the policy lays down clear timelines to review and strengthen its implementation.
Though the policy is a progressive step, activists have identified significant gaps in the policy and suggest some improvements to make it truly beneficial.
Read the policy HERE