|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
The life of a transgender in Bangalore is about to get tougher. A new set of amendments gives police the right to prevent, suppress or control undesirable activities of transgenders by preparing and maintaining a register of names and addresses of those “reasonably suspected” of kidnapping or emasculating boys and committing or abetting unnatural offences.
The amendments to the Karnataka Police Act 1964, proposed by a one-man committee of former law secretary K R Chamayya, was approved by Governor H R Bhardwaj and published in the State Gazette of June 16, 2012.
The amendments give law-enforcing authorities additional powers to regulate transgenders in the city by maintaining a separate record in respective police stations. They also provide for aggrieved transgenders to file objections against the inclusion of his/her name in the register.
But coming barely a week after former chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda assured transgenders of a separate welfare board, the amended act has evoked a bitter response from the community and human rights activists across the city.
A shocked Akkai Padmashali, programme manager with Sangama, a society working for the welfare of transgenders in the state, told Bangalore Mirror, “The move has shocked our entire community. We have been let down by the government. This is nothing but an insult to our fight for rights. Last year, when we organised a state-level convention, the then law minister S Suresh Kumar had promised to withdraw these amendments and repeal the law. But today, it has been silently accorded by the Governor and has become a law which endangers us and is bound to lead to more harassment.”
Asked about the objective behind the amendment, Suresh Kumar said, “I require some time to comment on the nature of the amendments. I cannot recollect the details now as I am taking part in a function. I will have to go through them in details.”
According to office-bearers of Sangama, the Karnataka Police Act incorporates provisions from the repealed Hyderabad Eunuchs Act 1329, a regressive law that allowed draconian police measures against the marginalised and vulnerable community.
“The old Act had its roots in the colonial-era Criminal Tribes Act, which considered all members of certain tribes, castes and social groups as criminals by birth. The fresh amendments are along the same lines which will again project us in the same picture. In fact, minister Shobha Karandlaje too expressed her solidarity with us and tried her best to fight for our cause at the government level. We had even made a representation to the Governor not to sign the fresh amendments. We feel the government has let us down by forwarding the amendments to the Governor,” Akkai said.
Even though sources in the law department maintained that proposals were made in the wake of increasing crimes associated with transgenders, transgender welfare associations in the city have stoutly refuted the claim. “Several NGOs have been functioning creating awareness among the community. With enough call centres and helplines to deal with the community’s problems, such instances have gradually come down. In fact, we have been targeted by many and members are stigmatised. The fresh amendments project us as culprits. Why can’t we be allowed to live like other human beings,” Akkai asked.
Though neither the government nor transgender welfare organisations have maintained the actual number of transgenders in the state, Sangama estimates that there are about 4,000 transgenders in Bangalore alone. “These figures are only of those who have registered with us. There are about 10,000-plus transgenders who have not as they feel embarrassed to come out in public,” Akkai said.
Why cops welcome the move
A senior police officer justified the amendment, saying, “All these days, there were no proper rules and regulations to deal with them given the fact that they form a separate gender all together. Whenever we arrested them, there were problems in accommodating them in either police stations or in jails as other inmates would raise objections. This apart, several people complained that they would forcibly extort money. Being few in number, it was difficult for us to keep tabs on them. Maintaining a register would help us to know their whereabouts.”
Nagendra Naik, senior advocate, High Court, said: "We cannot have additional police scrutiny of persons or discriminate them merely on the grounds of them being a sexual minority. It amounts to a violation of human rights and privacy of an individual. But one has to see it from other perspectives as well. It could be the result of recent allegations that they forcibly extort money from people and police have to strike a balance. With a spurt in their population, a mechanism is needed to keep tabs. But this is not just for transgenders. Tomorrow, if police comes and asks me, I will have to reveal my identity and details. But maintaining a register and having additional scrutiny is a violation of human rights. They are forced to take up such acts as they are not welcomed in the mainstream. These problems have to be looked at from a social point of view."
Fifty transgender associations under the aegis of Coalition for Sexworkers and Sexual Minorities Rights will protest against the amendments in a big way and exert pressure on the government to repeal it in the monsoon legislation to be held from July 19.
More power to cops
The amendment to the Karnataka Police Academy Act empowers the police to:
(a) Prepare and maintain a register of the names and places of residence of all transgenders residing in the area who are reasonably suspected of kidnapping or emasculating boys or of committing unnatural offences or any other offences or abetting the commission of such offences; b) File objections by aggrieved transgenders against the inclusion of their names in the register and record the reasons in writing;(c) Prohibit a registered eunuch from carrying out activities stated in the order.