A committee has been constituted by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment in Tamil Nadu to draft the state’s LGBTQIA+ policy. It has empanelled 3 member of the state’s transgender welfare board. This step has been taken after the recent rulings by the Madras High Court. 2 public consultation meetings were to be decided upon within 30 days of the committee’s first meeting. The committee has a total window of 45 days to submit the policy (till around the end of August). The 45-day window might be tight, however, the expected advantage is that there is a sense of urgency and prioritizing the drafting of an initial policy in the state, after the State government had announced that the policy would be published by March this year.
In December 2021, the Madras High Court expressed its “dismay and anguish” about the removal of the NCERT report on the inclusion of transgender children in school education due to pressure from external groups. Earlier that year, in June, the court had also issued guidelines and asked the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to empanel a community-led committee to deal with matters related to the queer community in the state and mainstream them.
Around the same time, the trans welfare board along with several other organisations allied with transgender rights in the state had submitted their suggestions regarding the wellbeing and safety of the trans community, while covering issues of the larger queer community as well, especially with respect to anti-harassment and safe shelter and protection from bullying in schools and colleges. Attended by Dr. L. Ramakrishnan, Dr. Vidhya Dinakaran (a counselling psychologist who is also part of the committee that has now been constituted), headed by Narthaki Natraj, a prominent transgender activist. They submitted recommendations to the social welfare department, although it was not publicly released.
The draft policy was recently reviewed at the first meeting of the newly-formed drafting committee in July this year. The Director of Social Welfare Department is now hoping to implement it after the input from the committee. It has been reported that the committee has representation from the lesbian, gay, trans-woman, trans-man, intersex, minoritized faiths, Dalit, and disabled communities. The Director of the Social Welfare department is said to have expressed an interest in working with a smaller group, and therefore more people could not be included in the 11-member committee. However, feedback from the community will be sought through public consultation meetings, which will be offline as well as in hybrid formats, so that it is accessible to the Tamizh diaspora as well as people across the state. The first such open consultation was hosted by committee member Busaina (she/they) on August 15 via Google Meet. This consultation meeting was for queer women and those who could not attend the meeting can email their input to email@example.com. In the coming days, city-based consultations may be held in urban centres like Trichy as well.
Horizontal reservation and healthcare assistance in terms of gender-affirming procedures are some of the suggestions are under consideration. Drafting in a sensitive language is the goal. Education, healthcare, employment, law enforcement and legal rights – are some of the areas that are being covered, along with reservation for transgender and intersex persons, in particular. However, representation in political decision-making is something that will likely require a lot more legislative involvement than this draft policy. One hopes that increased representation in bureaucracy and in ministries is something this policy could potentially set forth in motion. At present, the committee is offering recommendations on implementation and ideal outcome scenarios for the same.
A source told us that since the committee is made up of everyday queer people with lived experience, it feels empowering to have a say in a policy-making process that will put queer rights at par with women’s and children’s rights in the eyes of the law. They also added that these inroads can be leveraged in the future to improve queer rights in the state.