While there are provisions in the Transgender Bill that prohibit discrimination in employment opportunities, implementation of these provisions is a big challenge, says Sonica Aron
The first-ever study on the rights of transgenders by the National Human Rights Commission gives a clear picture of the scenario of transgender in the country. According to the study, about 92 per cent of transgenders are deprived of the right to participate in any form of economic activity in the country, with even qualified ones refused jobs.
As per 2011 census data, India’s trans population consist of 490,000 people, out of which handful of them only make it to gainful employment. Though there are number of efforts being made to change this narrative. For example, a Chennai-based start-up is working towards the social inclusion of the transgender community, but it has only been able to place 42 trans people in its 14-month existence. So focusing on trans employment at the workplace is the need of the hour.
In 2017, Kerala’s Kochi Metro Rail Limited employed 23 transgender persons, while eight out of them quit their jobs within a month due to refusal by several landlords to give them accommodation. They were left with no remedy but to quit their jobs since their employer had no legal obligation and/ or incentive to step in and help them fight against such discrimination.
It is only Tamil Nadu where some steps have been taken to improve the life of these people by providing them with education, identity cards and subsidised food.
What can be done by Corporates, Society and the Government?
While there are specific provisions in the Transgender Bill that protect transgender interests by prohibiting discrimination in employment opportunities, the implementation of such provisions is a big challenge.
A robust legal mechanism to safeguard transgender interests is the need of the hour and huge penalties must be imposed on offenders/violators. Further, relevant amendments under specific legislation such as the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, and the Maternity Act, 2013, may need to be revisited to include a trans people in their ambit for rigorous implementation of the provisions of the Bill. This will also safeguard a transgender person against discrimination in the workplace.
Equal opportunity to education and livelihood needs to be ensured. Which means from schools, colleges to workplaces need to be sensitised and prepared to welcome transpersons and ensure that they are not discriminated against.Just like there are education facilities provided from EWS, girl child, physically disabled, there should be mandatory education for children from the trans community.
The Government can take necessary steps to ensure that an employer is complying with such provisions by way of mandating an employer to submit quarterly returns that include details pertaining to the number of vacancies available, interviews conducted for them and the number of positions filled, including percentage of transgender employed therein.
Workplaces need to be more transgender-inclusive with initiatives like equal opportunity hiring, providing infrastructure such as restrooms for the third gender, action against misconduct/ harassment, medical insurance and policies, health care.
And last but not the least we need to be more inclusive for them in our society by treating them equally.
The writer is Managing partner, Marching Sheep