Released amid heated drama surrounding West Bengal Assembly Elections, 2021, the Bengal Trans* and Queer Charter of Demands is an outline of the state’s LGBTQI+ community’s aspirations and expectations from political powers. The Charter is the result of the collective effort of 21 LGBTQI+ organisations comprising of queer individuals and allies from West Bengal. PLEQSUS INDIA FOUNDATION, a Kolkata-based not-for-profit is credited with taking the initiative to create the charter. PLEQSUS galvanized support from groups and individuals from across the state and facilitated community consultations for this purpose.
The goal is to highlight LGBTQI+ concerns and demand greater involvement of political parties, civil society organisations and academia among others. The ambitions of this Charter transcend petty political rivalries – a stand that was strengthened by the presence of representatives from all the major political parties contesting the Assembly elections during its release at the Press Club Kolkata on March 27, 2021.
LGBTQI+ issues have been conveniently sidelined in politics and policymaking and ought to be addressed in the broader context of representation and access to healthcare, education, livelihood and other spheres. Intersectionality in Trans* and queer concerns must be first recognised by stakeholders and adequately researched to bridge the policy gap.
The Bengal Trans* & Queer Charter of Demands advocates for a re-envisioning of social systems that marginalise LGBTQI+ individuals.
The document delves into further detail, while providing specific policy recommendations.
Bullying is a major public health problem among LGBTQI+ youth and is one of the major reasons why Trans* persons are forced to drop out of school. The Charter suggests that educational institutions should adopt a comprehensive policy to address these issues of LGBTQI+ students and redesign school and college curricula to make them more inclusive etc. Further, the Charter calls for barrier-free access to government healthcare facilities, criminalisation of conversion therapy, bringing Gender-Affirmative Therapy under the umbrella of universal health care and a ban on sex reassignment surgeries of intersex minors unconsensually. The Charter addresses multi-dimensional violence and discrimination, housing, shelter, food security and social security, livelihoods and financial inclusion and statistical inclusion as well.
In the last leg of the document, emphasis is laid upon the importance of speedy, harassment-free procedures to obtain identity documentation, especially keeping in mind the severe inadequacies of the Trans Act, 2019. In addition, the Charter also demands the mandatory inclusion of queer and Trans* individuals in the Census and other such documents. Such a legislation, if implemented, becomes crucial in protecting Trans* persons in the face of proposed NPR-NRC-CAA measures which may render them stateless. Keeping in mind the importance of political visibility, the Charter also put forth the need for electoral representation and LGBTQI+ persons as public officeholders.
In conclusion, the Charter calls for the eradication of deep-rooted societal biases, systemic barriers and discriminatory frameworks that limit LGBTQI+ individuals from realising their full potential.
The Charter can be accessed here.