Why Free Sex Reassignment Surgeries at Government Hospitals is a Turning Point for India’s Transgender Community

Sex reassignment surgeries, access to free education and better access to employment guarantee schemes under the new rules of the Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights)Act,2019 will surely pave way for a more dignified and empowered existence for India’s transgender community.

The bill will provide social, social, economic and educational opportunities to persons belonging to the transgender category.

The ongoing pandemic may have unleashed serious difficulties for people living on the margins by rendering them homeless, jobless and hopeless but amid the dark clouds, there is a ray of hope and positivity for India’s transgender community. 

Transgender people have for generations struggled for gender reassignment surgeries but according to a new government order, they will now be able to undergo this complicated and costly surgical procedure free of cost at state run hospitals. 

Along with bearing the cost of the surgery and the entire medical procedure, the government will also bear the cost of accommodation ad schooling for the concerned individuals. 

The new and revised Transgender Persons(Protection and Rights) Rules,2020 allows for these free and important provisions that are likely to bring an entire world of transformation for the transgender community in the nation.

 The rules are expected to be notified to all the concerned authorities quite soon and it is likely that at least one government-run hospital in each state will be prepared to undertake gender affirming or sex reassignment surgeries(SRS) for the transgender community.

 

What exactly are Sex Reassignment Surgeries(SRS)?

 

As the very name suggests, Sex Reassignment Surgeries consist of a series of medical and surgical procedures wherein a transgender person’s genitals are reconstructed/altered so that they can be given a bodily composition which they feel more comfortable in.

At present, only a very minute section of the transgender population is able to undergo these surgeries because they are exorbitantly priced and are out of reach of most people who would want to undergo such procedures. 

Without any government legislation making the surgery more easily accessible for the transgender community, a large section of people who would have otherwise wanted to undergo the medical procedure haven’t been able to do so. Thus the present legislation is in many ways a landmark decision by the government because now at least one government hospital in each state will have to equip itself to conduct such procedures.

 

What do the New Norms on Sex Reassignment Surgeries(SRS) Demand?

 

The new set of rules governing the process of Sex Reassignment Surgeries(SRS) are important because they will make the procedure easily accessible to transgender persons irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds and therefore make the process more democratic and reachable. 

Under the new set of rules, at least one hospital in every state would be required to perform such surgeries free of cost and in addition also support the patient with adequate counselling, hormone replacement therapy and a medical insurance free of cost.

What is also important to note is that other than the surgical procedure itself, the new draft of rules also takes care of several other health issues faced by the transgender persons both at the government and privately run hospitals. This legislation plans to provide transgender people free accommodation and schooling and provides gender non-confirming and intersex children the opportunity to study at government run schools and universities free of cost.

 

Incorporating Voices from the Transgender Community

 

It was on January 10, 2020 that the social justice ministry had issued a notification wherein it notified that the Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights)Act,2019 was passed by the Parliament on 26 November, 2019 and had received the nod of the President on December 5,2019.

After this, the government released the set of draft rules for the Transgender Persons(Protection and Rights) Act,2019 and asked for suggestions from the community by May 18,2020.

Due to the ongoing lockdown in the country, many transgender activists complained that they couldn’t reach out to the larger community of transgender people as much as they would have wanted to but nevertheless some major suggestions that had been received despite the difficulties have been incorporated in the new set of rules.

After incorporating a series fo suggestions and feedback, the new set of rules will hopefully be more in tune with the needs and demands of the transgender persons. These new and revised set of rules include major welfare & development agendas for the community and attempts to ensure the dignity and wellbeing of the community-

 

  1. Access to Quality Healthcare: this means that the transgender community which has so far been denied dedicated healthcare mechanisms and policies will now receive affordable and quality healthcare. States will be required to ensure that separate wards are made for transgender people and facilities like medical insurance, counselling, health check-ups and medical procedures are made accessible to the members of the community free of cost or at heavily subsidised rates.
  2. Access to Quality Education: one of the biggest obstacles before the transgender community is the lack of education and skills. But under the new set of rules, transgender children will be provided education along with scholarships. They will also be protected against ragging in education institutions and their grievances will be immediately addressed. Moreover, they will be provided free schooling and accommodation in residential campuses.
  3. Access to Affordable Housing: the wellbeing of the transgender community cannot be ensured if it is not given access to food security through ration cards and other key provisions. Moreover, pensions for the aged, retirement schemes for transgender workers, affordable housing and non-exclusionary transportation facilities must also be made accessible to the community. These are some of the provisions that the new set of rules guarantee.
  4. Access to Medical & Life Insurance: it is impossible to ensure the health and physical well-being of the members of the transgender community if they don’t have a universal cover of life insurance. The new set of rules mandates the provision for this scheme.
  5. Access to Employment: the transgender community cannot be made free of exploitation and indignity unless thy have access to dignified and equal employment opportunities such as under schemes like the MGNREGA among others. Zero-interest and micro-finance schemes that can enable transgender persons to start their own enterprises will also compose an important step.

 

It is likely that with these new rules and provisions to provide aid and empowerment to the transgender community, they will be in a much more economically empowered and socio-culturally dignified position to live their life with their heads held high. 

From free gender-reassignment surgeries to free schooling and better access to employability, let us hope that the new rules framed under the Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights)Act,2019 brings a better tomorrow for the community.

 

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