Transgender activist Dr Aqsa Sheikh has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for misrepresenting the transgender community in the DMRC’s new toilets for transgender people.
“We argue that DMRC violated section 8 (3) of the law [Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 ] under which the appropriate government will formulate social protection schemes and programs that are transgender sensitive, non-stigmatizing and non-discriminatory, ”the complaint states.
Last month, DMRC said in a statement that it planned to allow transgender people access to separate toilets at its stations, which had so far been reserved for people with disabilities.
Dr Sheikh praised the initiative of the DMRC but also points to four errors made by the DMRC in its complaint. First, the bilingual signs used the word “ubhaylingi” in Hindi, which means intersex and non-transgender people. “Since the press release mentions that these signs were installed in 347 toilets in Delhi metro stations, there has been a huge amplification and spread of incorrect terms. Although it is known that the Hindi translation [of the term] in the law on transgender people is ubhaylingi, the community prefers that the word be used for intersex people and not for transgender people, ”the complaint states. Dr Sheikh called for the immediate removal of all these bilingual signs.
Second, the symbol used for transgender people is the image of a man and a woman. The complaint said it would reinforce the flawed assumption that transgender people are half male and half female. This violates an order issued by Chief Secretary, NCT Delhi, in February, which made the use of the ‘T’ symbol mandatory for transgender people.
The complaint further pointed out that press releases from the DMRC use the term “transgender” instead of transgender people. “Transgender is not a name in English but an adjective, a term used to describe a person, it is not the person themselves. Therefore, the proper use of the term is “transgender person” instead of “transgender”, ”Dr. Sheikh said in his complaint.
The complaint said the signs did not provide a “safe space and prevent gender discrimination” that the DMRC wanted. “These actions reinforce stereotypes and assumptions about transgender people,” he added.
Dr Sheikh also pointed out that the DMRC has not appointed a complaints officer to deal with complaints about violations of the provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019.
“They (DMRC) did not consult anyone from the community. They should involve the community when they are doing something for the community. Now that we have reported the errors, the right thing to do is to make the change at all 347 metro stations, ”Dr Aqsa Sheikh told HT. She is the first trans woman in India to be appointed nodal manager of a Covid-19 vaccination center.
Anuj Dayal, executive director of corporate communications at DMRC, said in a statement that they are open to replacing problematic road signs and provided clarification for all complaints raised by Dr. Sheikh. “DMRC is still alive and open to such returns and will continue to improvise on its serves without hurting anyone’s sensitivity – inadvertently or inadvertently,” he added.
Transgender and human rights activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli said it goes far beyond the DMRC. “The languages have been strongly patriarchal, classist, trans-misogynist on so many levels and there is no equivalent word for ‘transgender people’ in any of the Indian languages,” she said. Vyjayanti asked why the government did not come up with a term for the community when it could come up with a Hindi translation for cellphones.