Transgenders in India. Photo: Shutterstock In 2014, the Supreme Court of India had passed a widely hailed judgment that recognised the rights of transgender people and said they should enjoy all fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian constitution. After more than six years of the landmark order, the government has now finally started discussions to implement it. According to The Economics Times, the education ministry has started evaluating ways to introduce a reservation system for transgenders
in higher educational institutions. Reports say that it is likely to be done through the OBC route, which means transgender persons would be categorised as Other Backward Castes (OBCs).
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the National
Commission for Backward Castes (NCBC) are familiar with the development, according to media reports. The education ministry implements reservations for socially and economically backward castes in central educational institutions only as mandated by the MSJE, the nodal department on all SEBC issues.
NALSA vs Union of India case
The discusions follow the 2014 SC order in NALSA vs the Union of India case. In the order, the SC had directed the Centre and state governments to take steps to treat transgenders
“as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and extend all kinds of reservation in admission to educational institutions and in public appointments”.
"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," it said in granting rights to those who identified themselves as neither male nor female.
It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019
Following the SC ruling, the National
Commission for Other Backward Classes (NCBC) recommended that all transgender persons from forward castes be given reservation under the existing 27 per cent quota for OBC in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill. An initial draft of the Bill even went to the extent of stating that “those transgender persons who by birth do not belong to Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) may be declared as Backward Class and be entitled to reservation under the existing ceiling of OBC category”. However, according to reports, the ministry decided to remove the provision after OBC groups lobbied against the move perceiving it might shrink their share of the reservation pie.
Even after a parliamentary panel slammed the Bill for being “silent on granting reservations to transgender persons” under the OBC category, the Union government’s revised Bill has not granted assured quotas under the politically-sensitive OBC category.
Transgenders in India
According to one estimate, India has about two million transgender people. Activists say these people live on the fringes of society, often in poverty, ostracised because of their gender identity. Most make a living by singing and dancing or by begging and prostitution. Rights groups say they often face huge discrimination and have been forced to choose either male or female as their gender in most public spheres.