Sexual Violence against Transgender: SC Notice to Centre on Plea for Changes in Law

The Supreme Court on 12th October 2020 issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking changes in the criminal law to protect transgender people from sexual violence.

This is a good petition,” Chief Justice of India S A Bobde remarked as the plea by Advocate Reepak Kansal came up before the three-judge bench.

The petition cited the absence of any provision in the Indian Penal Code that deals with sexual assault by any male, female or transgender on a transgender. It said that Section 354 of the IPC dealing with offence of sexual assault does not extend to transgenders.

The Indian laws are for men and women and therefore, considering transgender…they generally could not get justice from the authorities due to lack of law/Act. The third gender… are being deprived of many of the rights and privileges which other persons enjoy as citizens of this country. The State cannot discriminate them on the ground of gender, violating Articles 14 to 16 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” the petition contended.

The Bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramaian, asked Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared for the petitioner, to also apprise it about issues in which the court has “legislated” and laid down rules and guidelines in the past.

The petition has sought appropriate amendments in IPC provisions dealing with sexual assault to include transgender/transsexual/kinnar in the definitions and to direct the government to make gender-neutral laws on sexual harassment. The plea also said that statistics show shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault against transgenders. It claimed that one in two transgenders have been sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.

Pointing out that the right to life includes the right to live with dignity, it said this was not possible for transgenders due to the sexual and other crimes against members of the community.