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(New York) – India’s parliament should enact a bill ensuring better legal protections for the rights of the country’s transgender population, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today to members of parliament. The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, if passed, will allow for legal gender recognition, removing a fundamental barrier for transgender people toward realizing their basic human rights, including protection from violence and discrimination.

“What is at stake in this bill is the fundamental dignity of transgender people, who for too long have had to endure public ridicule and humiliating treatment by police and other authorities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “India’s parliament should ensure transgender people have full legal recognition as required by the constitution and international law.”

While India has made considerable progress on rights of transgender people in recent years, most remain socially marginalized and deprived of basic rights, including the right to vote, own property, marry, and claim a formal identity through a passport or other government identification. They are frequently publicly ridiculed and excluded from general society, enduring discrimination and humiliation from the police and medical authorities.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that transgender people be recognized as a third gender and enjoy all fundamental rights. The Supreme Court stated: “Transgender persons’ right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld and the Centre and State Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender.”

The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, which was passed by the upper house of parliament on April 24, 2015, calls for equal rights of transgender people. To become law, it now must be passed by the lower house of parliament, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a majority. The Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, belonging to the BJP, has thus far said that the government supports the issue but wants to bring its own comprehensive bill in this regard.

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