On 25 November 2019, the Indian parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act (the “Act”) to end discrimination against transgender people in accessing employment, education, healthcare, welfare and housing.
The Act was given presidential assent on 5 December 2019, and entered into force on 10 January 2020.
Prior to the Act, transgender persons’ basic human rights were recognized by the Indian Supreme Court in a 2014 judgment (National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India). However, despite this recognition, transgender people remained subject to harassment, violence and discrimination in accessing education, employment and healthcare.
The Act aims to address these issues and ensure stricter enforcement of transgender peoples’ rights.
The Act prohibits discrimination against transgender people in the following circumstances:
- Access to education and employment, including their right to hold public or private office.
- Access to healthcare for any services, including sex reassignment surgeries.
- Right to apply for a change of their gender identity after obtaining a certificate from the medical facility where they had sex reassignment surgery.
- Access to public enjoyment facilities.
- Access to a public or private establishment.
- Right to housing.
The Act requires individuals to register, with proof of gender reassignment surgery, with the government if they want to be officially recognized as transgender.
The Act requires employers to ensure that transgender employees’ rights in the workplace are protected. Employers are required to designate a complaint officer to deal with alleged violations of the new law. In addition, employers are prohibited from discriminating against transgender people during the hiring process, for a promotion, or any other employment-related matter. Transgender people may file a lawsuit against the employer for non-compliance with the Act.
There are no workplace-specific penalties; however, the following are punishable by 6 months to two years in prison, plus a fine:
- Forced or bonded labor (excluding compulsory government service for public purposes).
- Denial of access to public places.
- Removal from household and village.
- Physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.
Many multinational companies have already implemented diversity and inclusion policies ensuring that transgender employees’ rights are protected. Smaller employers should ensure their policies are compliant with the Act. In addition, employers may consider providing all employees with training on transgender peoples’ rights to ensure better awareness and enforcement of the new Act.