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Daily Current affairs 29 DECEMBER 2018

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Pocso amendments aimed at curbing rising sex abuse

The news

• The government has approved amendments to various sections of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.

 

Background

• POCSO or The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was established to protect the children against offences like sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography.

• However, despite the act in place, crime against children is showing a rising trend.

• The Centre’s 2007 study on child abuse reports that a shocking 53.2% of children say they have experienced one or more form of sexual abuse.

• Of this number, 52.9% are boys.

• Further, the gang rape of a minor girl at Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir created an outrage in the public,following which the government had brought an ordinance regarding this in April 2018.

• This ordinance amended Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also changed Section 42 of the POCSO Act, to say that newly-amended IPC section would apply to “girls” below the age of 12 years. 

• While POCSO is gender-neutral, the amended Section 376 mentions the word “woman”.

• To correct this anomaly, the women and child development ministry wanted to amend Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the POCSO Act, which would make rape committed against “any child” below 12 punishable with death.

• The amendments were placed before the Cabinet and it has approved the amendments to the POSCO act.

 

Highlights of the news

• The government on 28th December approved amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, to bring punishments for sexual assaults on boys on a par with those against girls along with various other amendments.

• The amendments have been proposed for sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 14, 15 and 42 of the POCSO Act to address child sexual abuse in an appropriate manner.

• The amendments are aimed at discouraging the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent.

• The amendments approved by the Union Cabinet will now have to be passed by Parliament.

 

Amendments approved to the POSCO act2012

• The Act defines child as “any person” below the age of 18 years, it has now again been made a gender-neutral legislation.

• Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Act are proposed to be amended to provide the option of stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault on a child.

• The amendments are also proposed to the section 9 of the Act to protect-

o Children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and disasters.

o In cases where children are administered, in any way, any hormone or any chemical substance, to attain early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative sexual assault.

• Sections 14 and 15 of the Act are also proposed to be amended to address the menace of the child pornography.

o It is proposed to levy fine for not destroying or deleting or reporting the pornographic material involving a child.

o The offender can be further penalized with jail term or fine or both for transmitting propagating administrating such material in any manner except for the purpose of reporting as may be prescribed and for use as evidence in court.

o Penal provisions have been made more stringent for storing/possessing any pornographic material in any form involving a child for commercial purpose.

 

 

Significance of the move

• The amendment is expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated in the Act.

• It may protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensures their safety and dignity.

• The amendment will establish clarity regarding the aspects of child abuse and punishment thereof.

• This is a wholesome initiative whereby the entire POCSO architecture is not only strengthened but also enlarged so that artificial medicines or hormones could not be abused to kill the childliness of a child.

 

About the POSCO act

• POCSO or The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was established to protect the children against offences like sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography.

• It received the President’s assent on June 19, 2012.

• It was notified in the Gazette of India on June 20, in the same year.

• It was formed to provide a child-friendly system for trial underneath which the perpetrators could be punished.

• The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.

• It also makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system.

• The Act defines different forms of sexual abuse which includes penetrative and non-penetrative assault.

• It also involves sexual harassment, pornography, etc.

• The Act also makes it mandatory to report such cases and it makes it the legal duty of a person aware of the offence to report the sexual abuse.

• It prescribes rigorous imprisonment for sexual assault and other related crimes.

 

Manned space mission to take off

The News

The Union Cabinet has approved Rs 10,000 crore for India’s 1st Human spaceflight programme, Gaganyaan to be launched by 2022.

Background

  • In August 2018 the Prime Minister announced that India will attempt a manned mission, Gaganyaan into space by 2022. 
  • The Gaganyaan programme will include two unmanned flights to be launched in December 2020 and July 2021 and one humanspace flight to be launched in December 2021.
  • India’s first human spaceflight will carry 3 astronauts to a low earth orbit of 300 to 400 kilometres on board GSLV Mark III vehicle, for at least 7 days.
  • If successful, India would be the 4th country to send manned mission after the Russia, USA and China.

Components of Gaganyaan

The most critical elements of the human mission are

Rocket: GSLV Mk-III

  • GSLV Mk-III with an indigenous cryogenic engine is capable of delivering heavier payloads deeper into space.
  • In 2014, ISRO successfully tested an experimental flight of GSLX Mk-III
  • In June 2017, ISRO successfully launched the first “developmental” flight of GSLV Mk-III carrying GSAT-19 satellite into space.
  • The rocket will take the crew to the low-earth orbit (300-400 km)

Crew Module

  • A crew module carrying three Indians will be attached with a service module.
  • These two modules will be integrated with an advanced GSLV Mk III rocket.
  • The crew members will be selected by the IAF and ISR.
  • The crew will perform micro-gravity and other scientific experiments for a week.

Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry technology - CARE

  • Satellites that are launched for communication or remote sensing are meant to remain in space.
  • However, a manned spacecraft needs to come back.
  • While reentering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft needs to withstand very high temperatures created due to friction.
  • A prior critical experiment was carried out in 2014 along with GSLV MK-III when the CARE (Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment) capsule successfully demonstrated that it could survive atmospheric re-entry.

Crew Escape System - PAT

  • The Crew Escape System is an emergency accident avoidance measure designed to quickly get astronauts and their spacecraft away from the launch vehicle if a malfunction occurs during the initial stage of the launch.
  • In July 2018, ISRO completed the first successful flight ‘pad abort test’ or Crew Escape System.

Environmental Control & Life Support System ECLSS

  • The crew module carrying human beings must have conditions inside suitable for humans to live comfortably.
  • ECLSS will
  • Maintain steady cabin pressure and air composition
  • Remove carbon dioxide and other harmful gases
  • Control temperature and humidity
  • Manage parameters like fire detection and suppression
  • The layout, design and configuration of ECLSS inside the crew module have been finalised.

 

 

RSBY lessons for Ayushman Bharat Editorial 28th Dec’18 FinancialExpress

RSBY lessons for Ayushman Bharat Editorial 28th Dec’18 FinancialExpress

 

 

High out-of-pocket expenditure on health:

  • The healthcare sector in India faces multiple challenges requiring government intervention.

  • Of these, the most identifiably damaging is the rising out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE) of the citizens.

  • According to the latest National Health Accounts estimates among different sources of healthcare financing, 67% of the total health expenditure comes from households’ pockets.

  • At the national level, of the Rs 3,826 spent on healthcare per capita, Rs 2,394 is OOPE.

Pushing people into poverty:

  • In this manner, catastrophic health expenses push about 7% of the population below the poverty threshold every year.

 

Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission:

  • Against this backdrop, the government of India launched the Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) in September 2018.

 

RSBY was an earlier health insurance scheme:

  • The AB-NHPM shares its objectives with the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) scheme. 

But RSBY wasn’t successful:

  • RSBY sanctioned Rs 30,000 health insurance coverage per family per year for secondary and tertiary hospitalisation.

  • In the nearly nine years of RSBY’s existence, the scheme objectives are yet to be met.

Insufficient coverage was a major issue:

  • Several studies have found that the quality of healthcare provisioned under the RSBY was compromised because of insufficient coverage.

Ayushman Bharat (AB) is an improvement as it provides increased coverage:

  • In this respect, the Ayushman Bharat scheme is a positive step up, with an increased coverage limit of Rs 5 lakh.

 

But many shortcomings of RSBY remain in AB that could limit its effectiveness:

  • Despite the good change in coverage, some less-desired aspects of the RSBY have unfortunately seeped into the AB-NHPM scheme.

  • The capacity of increased coverage to reduce the actual OOPE is limited in the current form of this scheme.

Three major issues that need improvement:

There are three main reasons that need to be addressed at early stage for effective implementation of the scheme.

1. Outpatient Expenditure left out:

  • Similar to the RSBY, outpatient expenditure, which forms a major part of OOPE, has been left out of the ambit of the AB-NHPM.

  • Despite the increase in coverage amount, the AB-NHPM is limited to only inpatient care.

  • That is, the Rs 5 lakh cover is intended for secondary and tertiary care ‘hospitalisation’ only.

Problems with it:

  • This exclusion of outpatient care becomes inimical for two reasons:

    • The first relates to the percentage of OOPE spent on outpatient care, which is well above 55%.

      • Therefore, in its current form, the AB-NHPM would cover only 32% of the total OOPE directly.

    • The second relates to a behavioural pattern common amongst the particularly vulnerable sections of the population, which the AB-NHPM aims to target.

      • It is well-established that poorer people, functioning on daily income, tend to avoid hospitalisation due to the associated loss in working income.

  • Therefore, outpatient care inclusive of diagnostics and medicines needs to be insured for them.

2. Single rate card may not work:

  • There is great heterogeneity in healthcare needs across the country. The last round of the NSSO survey showed that the average hospitalisation rates vary significantly across the country.

  • The single rate card prescribed for the entire country does not take into account the heterogeneity in healthcare prices across the nation. Relying on a single rate card for the entire country could possibly limit private sector participation.

  • Also, a 2018 FICCI report on estimation of costs of the 10 most common surgical procedures conducted in India found that the prices set under the AB-NHPM fail to cover even the costs of performing these surgical procedures in these hospitals by 25% to 300%.

  • All this could inhibit the implementation of the scheme in places where the prescribed rates fall below the market prices.

Needs modifications to encourage high private sector participation:

  • The AB-NHPM scheme, in its current form (similar to the RSBY), may not be able to account for the rising private players’ participation in the Indian healthcare sector.

  • Although the list of hospitals empanelled under the scheme contains many private hospitals, unfortunately, under the single rate card provision of the scheme, the private sector’s willing participation seems unlikely.

  • This is because the prices proposed under the rate card fall much below the expectations of private sector healthcare providers.

  • The increase in compensation holds value only when it is able to induce insurance coverage for healthcare services provided by the private sector.

  • From 1996 to 2016, the participation of the private sector in providing healthcare services has been increasing at a quick rate in urban areas, while remaining more or less constant in rural areas.

  • In 2014-15, over 68% of hospitalised cases in urban areas and 42% of hospitalised cases in rural areas got recorded in private hospitals.

  • Following a 2018 NITI Aayog ranking of states’ health performance, we see that even in the top-performing states with the highest government expenditure on health, the spending in the private sector in the form of OOPE is quite high.

  • The same holds true for the bottom three states as well.

  • Thus, the inclusion of private sector healthcare service providers under the AB-NHPM is crucial.

3. Procedure list needs to be flexible across states:

  • The compilation of the medical packages list at the central level becomes an issue, given the diversity in disease prevalence across the country.

  • A study in 2018 under the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative maintains the need for state-specific health interventions.

  • The study divides Indian states into four epidemiological transition level (ETL) groups on the basis of the ratio of burden from communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases to those from non-communicable diseases in 2016.

  • It is recognised that there are comprehensive inequalities in disease burden and its causes across states.

  • This highlights a deep-rooted need for disease-specific interventions, allowing for specialised attention to associated risk factors.

  • With a focused treatment approach, incidence itself can be brought down, not merely treatment costs.

 

Addressing these issues through greater role for states and cooperative federalism:

  • The challenges highlighted above can be potentially addressed with the idea of cooperative federalism, which encourages Centre-state collaboration.

  • States’ role needs to be enhanced at planning stages, a shift from their current role as implementers.

  • For instance, states could be given the responsibility of preparing the medical package list.

Benefits:

This would possibly have two benefits.

  1. It can induce cost-effective accounting for interstate variation.

  2. If poorer states could set up lucrative prices for healthcare packages, it could augment private investment in these states. This would ideally lead to the creation of healthcare infrastructure where it is lacking.

 

Conclusion:

  • While the ideation of the scheme needs to be lauded, the implementation challenges deserve some serious thought.

  • An increased states’ participation and inflation-adjusted rates for procedures would help India progress towards its universal healthcare goal.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: Social Issues

 

Relevant question:

Keeping in consideration the failure of the earlier national health insurance scheme Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, discuss what improvements can be done in Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission to make it successful.

 

Riots on streets down, rioting during encounters up in Valley

The News

According to estimates, while there is a fall in the number of overall rioting incidents compared to 2016, riots disrupting the encounters are on the rise in Jammu and Kashmir.

Background

  • Kashmir valley has witnessed violent protests in the aftermath of killing of Burhan Wani by Indian security forces in 2016.
  • Burhan Wani is the leader of new age militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen.
  • Kashmir witnessed a growth in Islamic militancy and radicalization among Kashmiri youth due to new age militancy style adopted by Hizbul Mujahideen.
  • As per data, terror attacks in Kashmir increased one-and-a-half times, with 390 incidents in 2018.
  • As a result Indian security forces have adopted various ways to deal with the unrest in the valley.

Data on Violence in the Valley

  • The total number of rioting incidents on the streets including mob violence and stone pelting has come down from around 2800 in 2016 to 780 in 2018.
  • The high rioting in 2016 is attributed to protests in the aftermath of killing of Burhan Wani.
  • The number of rioters killed in clashes with security forces also declined by nearly half in 2018 compared to 2016.
  • However, rioting during counter-insurgency operations has been on the rise in the last 3 years
  • The number of killings during riots during counter-insurgency operations went up by six times from 6 in 2016 to 37 in 2018.
  • As a result the Army in October this year sent out a warning to rioters that would be treated as overground workers (OGWs) of militants.

What does it mean?

  • The increasing riots against encounters or counter-insurgency shows the support of Kashmiri civilian population for the militant organizations.
  • This is a way shows the success of new age militancy that is on the rise in the valley.
  • Further there is social sanction for rioting and stone-pelting during encounters.
  • It is also seen as a religious duty to protect the lives of mujahideen.
  • It is viewed by some in the Indian Army as a sub-conventional warfare tactic to use sympathizers as human shields by the militant organisations.

Reasons for growth in sympathisers

  • Absence of a political dialogue
  • Lack of economic opportunities
  • Frustration due to high unemployment
  • Excessive militarization of the public space
  • Repeated human rights violations by the security forces

 

 

PCA-banks see slower bad debt growth: RBI

The News

  • According to the recent central bank’s report on ‘Trend and Progress of Banking in India - 2017-18’, Government-run banks put under the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have shown lower growth in gross non-performing assets (NPAs) as against those not under PCA.
  • The RBI also said that it will ensure that growth in the non-banking finance company (NBFC) sector is sustained and the prevailing liquidity fears subside.

Background

·         The PCA framework was revised by the RBI with effect from April 2017.

·         Under the framework, RBI monitors key performance indicators of the banks as an early warning exercise and PCA is initiated once the thresholds relating to capital, asset quality and profitability are breached.

About Prompt Corrective Action

  • RBI has put in place some trigger points to assess, monitor, control and take corrective actions on banks which are weak and troubled.
  • The process or mechanism under which such actions are taken is known as Prompt Corrective Action, or PCA.
  • Thus, PCA is triggered when banks breach certain regulatory requirements like minimum capital, return on asset and quantum of non-performing assets.
  • These parameters are tracked through the CRAR/CET 1 ratio, the net NPA ratio and the return on assets.
  • The RBI had put 11 of the 21 public sector banks (PSBs) under the PCA framework
  • This group is made up of Allahabad Bank, United Bank, Corporation Bank, IDBI Bank, Uco Bank, Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Dena Bank and Bank of Maharashtra.

Note- The Kerala-based Dhanlaxmi Bank is the only private sector bank under the old PCA framework.

What is a Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC)?

  • NBFCs or Non Banking Financial Companies are those companies which provide banking services without meeting the legal definition of a bank.
  • A NBFC is incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 and desirous of commencing business of non-banking financial institution as defined under Section 45 I(a) of the RBI Act, 1934.
  • The NBFCs do the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares, stock, bonds, debentures, securities issued by Government.
  • They also deal in other securities of like marketable nature, leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business.

 

  • However, the companies cannot be NBFCs if their primary business is related to agriculture activity, industrial activity, sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.
  • Usually, the 50-50 test is used as an anchor to register an NBFC with RBI.
  • 50-50 Test means that the companies at least 50% assets are financial assets and its income from financial assets is more than 50% of the gross income.

Key Highlights of the report

  • Gross non-performing assets (NPAs) of the banking system shot up to Rs 10,39,700 crore, or 11.2 per cent of total advances, during the fiscal ended March 2018 as against Rs 791,800 crore (9.3 per cent of advances) in the same period of last year.
  • During the year, the share of doubtful advances in total gross NPAs increased sizeably, driven up by PSU banks. The share of sub-standard and loss assets in gross NPAs of private declined under the impact of aggressive write-offs.
  • As per the report, the banks under PCA have also increased recoveries, contained their growth in advances & deposits, reduced riskiness of assets as they focused on better rated assets, and lowered expenses.
  • Various restrictions on PCA banks have resulted in reining in their operating expenses as well.
  • Some of these banks have made efforts to identify and sell their non-core assets. However, asset quality and capital position have experienced deterioration.
  • The sharper increase in NPA ratios compared to non- PCA PSBs is also because of decline in advances by the former. As a result, profitability has taken a hit as reflected in negative return on assets
  • On extending liquidity support to NBFCs, the report said, Though concerns surrounding the sector due to debt defaults amid temporary asset liability mismatches arose, the inherent strength of the sector, coupled with the RBI’s continuing vigil on the regulatory and supervisory front, will ensure that the growth of the sector is sustained and liquidity fears are allayed.
  • This segment, also called shadow banking with a size of around 15% of the commercial banks’ combined balance sheet, has been growing robustly in recent years, providing an alternative source of funds to the commercial sector in the face of slowing bank credit.
  • For the NBFC segment, the IL&FS-led crisis came as these entities were recovering from the impacts of demonetisation and GST implementation, the report noted.
  • During FY18, the consolidated balance sheet of NBFCs expanded as they were boosted by strong credit expansion.
  • The report said that although total NPAs in the banking sector were still high, the RBI indicated that the same have begun to stabilise.
  • It also indicated that continuing credit growth recovery seen in the early part of FY19 is expected to further reinforce in the coming months.
  • The RBI report flagged some major challenges for the economy, which included
    • continuing with the progress made under the NPA resolution framework with the IBC as the focal point,
    • meeting the recapitalisation needs of PSBs,
    • enhancing the corporate governance mechanisms as the financial system becomes more complex, and
    • strengthening the asset-liability framework for NBFCs to bring it on a par with banks and harmonising it across NBFCs.

 

  • The Reserve Bank of India has thus warned that frontloading of regulatory relaxations, before the structural reforms are fully set in and conclusive evidence on sustained improvement in cumulative default rates (CDRs) and loss given defaults (LGDs), is observed could be detrimental to the interests of the economy.

 

Cabinet nod for easing CRZ norms1

The News

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister has approved the CRZ Notification 2018, streamlining of Coastal Regulation Zone clearances, aimed at enhancing activities in the coastal regions and promoting economic growth while keeping in mind conservation principles of coastal regions
  • The relaxation has been given in various norms including the clearance of projects or activities falling in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), allowing for greater use of coastal areas for tourism and industrial growth.

Background:

  • With the objective of conservation and protection of the coastal environment, Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change notified the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification in 1991, which was subsequently revised in 2011. The notification was amended from time to time based on representations received.
  • The move comes in the backdrop of a series of representations received by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change from various coastal states and Union Territories, besides other stakeholders for a comprehensive review of the provisions of the CRZ Notification, 2011.

Salient Features:

  • Allowing FSI as per current norms in CRZ areas: In the CRZ, 2018 Notification, it has been decided to de-freeze the same and permit FSI for construction projects, as prevailing on the date of the new Notification. This will enable redevelopment of these areas to meet the emerging needs.
  • Densely populated rural areas to be afforded greater opportunity for development: For CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have now been stipulated as below:
    • CRZ-III A - These are densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2161 per square kilometre as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall have a No Development Zone (NDZ) of 50 meters from the HTL as against 200 meters from the High Tide Line stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011 since such areas have similar characteristics as urban areas.
    • CRZ-III B - Rural areas with population density of below 2161 per square kilometre as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall continue to have an NDZ of 200 meters from the HTL.
  • Tourism infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted: Temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. have now been permitted in Beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in the "No Development Zone" (NDZ) of the CRZ-III areas as per the Notification. However, a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL should be maintained for setting up of such facilities.
  • CRZ Clearances streamlined: The procedure for CRZ clearances has been streamlined. Only such projects/activities, which are located in the CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward) shall be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level with necessary guidance.
  • A No Development Zone (NDZ) of 20 meters has been stipulated for all Islands: For islands close to the main land coast and for all Backwater Islands in the main land, in wake of space limitations and unique geography of such regions, bringing uniformity in treatment of such regions, NDZ of 20 m has been stipulated.
  • All Ecologically Sensitive Areas have been accorded special importance: Specific guidelines related to their conservation and management plans have been drawn up as a part of the CRZ Notification.
  • Pollution abatement has been accorded special focus: In order to address pollution in Coastal areas treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards.
  • Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.

Significance of the move

  • The changes brought about in the CRZ Notification will further add to creating additional opportunities for affordable housing. This will benefit not only the housing sector but the people at large looking for shelter.
  • The new Notification will boost tourism in terms of more activities, more infrastructure and more opportunities and will certainly go a long way in creating employment opportunities in various aspects of tourism.
  • This will also give boost to people, desirous of seeing and enjoying the beauty of the mighty seas.
  • This will also enable redevelopment of these areas to meet the emerging needs.

 

 

 

A law that defeats its purpose Editorial 29th Dec’18 TheHindu

 

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018:

  • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha recently.

Activists not pleased with the Bill:

  • The Bill in the current format has caused great alarm among transgender activists.

  • They have protested on the streets, and campaigned against the Bill.

 

Reasons for the strong resistance to this Bill

1. Issue of Gender recognition:

Bill provides for a committee for recognition of transgender persons:

  • The 2018 Bill in Section 6 establishes a District Screening Committee for the purpose of recognition of transgender persons.

  • This Screening Committee includes a chief medical officer and a psychologist/psychiatrist.

  • This means that medical and psychological tests would be required for grant of change of gender identity.

  • There is no provision in the Bill that gender change would be permitted without medical or psychological treatment.

  • The Bill also does not allow for recognition of gender identity as male or female. It only allows for an identity certificate as ‘transgender’.

Contrary to SC judgement:

  • The provisions in the Bill goes against the decision of the Supreme Court, which recognised the right to self-identify oneself as male, female or transgender and would also be forcing intersex persons to get a gender identity as “transgender”.

  • In the landmark NALSA v. Union of Indiajudgment, the Supreme Court laid down that transgender and intersex persons have the constitutional right to self-identify their gender as male, female or transgender even without medical intervention.

  • The court held: “Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom and no one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including SRS, sterilization or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity”.

  • Hence, medical procedures should not be required as a pre-condition for any identity documents for transgender and intersex persons, nor should there be any requirement of a mental health assessment.

Against their Right to Dignity:

  • Requiring a person to submit proof of medical treatment or mental health assessment of their gender identity violates one’s right to dignity, the right to be free from unwanted medical treatment and the right to be free from discrimination.

 

UK first to allow self-determination of gender:

  • The U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act 2004 was the first law in the world allowing people to change gender without surgery.

Other countries also followed:

  • Since then, other countries, including Argentina, Ireland and Denmark, have passed laws that allow people to ‘self-declare’ their gender, rather than seek approval from a panel of medical experts.

 

Activists want District Screening Committee provision to be removed and self-determination be allowed:

  • Based on the above reasons, the activists are demanding that District Screening Committee be removed from the 2018 Bill.

  • The Bill needs to state explicitly that no medical or mental health examination will be required and applicants will simply need to submit an affidavit attesting the request for a change of gender identity.

 

2. Issue of Reservations:

Reservations for transgenders was expected:

  • Reservations for transgender and intersex persons in educational institutions and in public employment were seen to be crucial for their social inclusion.

  • The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill 2014 too provided for 2% reservation.

  • Reservations were also mandated by the Supreme Court in NALSA case.

But the Bill did not provide for reservations:

  • Despite the SC judgement and provision in the earlier Bill, the 2018 Bill does not provide for any reservation.

  • It provides in Sections 10 and 14 that there would be no discrimination in education and employment.

Activists demand provision for reservation:

  • Activists say these rights are meaningless if transgender persons are not able to get access in the first place.

  • Equality would demand that in order for the trans and intersex community to get access to their basic social rights, there should be horizontal reservation in education and employment provided to them.

 

3. Bill criminalises forcing transgenders into begging:

  • The Bill in Section 19 makes it a criminal offence for anyone to compel a transgender person into begging.

But it can actually hurt transgenders:

  • The provision on begging has serious implications.

  • A large number of people from the trans and intersex community are engaged in begging and sex work due to discrimination and not having any other opportunities. 

  • This provision would lead to members of the trans community being criminalised.

  • When the criminalising of begging itself has been held to be unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court, there is no place for this offence in the 2018 Bill.

  • Having this offence in the Bill will lead to further criminalising of transgender lives.

 

Other shortcomings:

  • The 2018 Bill does not have a whole gamut of positive rights such as the rights of trans and intersex persons to inheritance of property, rights within the family such as adoption and to be free from domestic violence, rights of political participation such as the right to vote and hold public office, and the right to health to include free sex reassignment treatments.

  • It also does not make sexual violence against transgender and intersex persons a criminal offence.

  • The current law on rape is gender specific and transgender persons have no recourse under criminal law for sexual assault.

 

Conclusion:

The Bill is an opportunity to ensure that the constitutional rights of transgender and intersex persons are realised.

We must not lose this opportunity by passing a flawed legislation.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: Social Issues 

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Section : Editorial Analysis