Over a hundred organisations and individuals representing transgender persons have written to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad decrying his Ministry’s reported move to delete provisions approved by the Labour Ministry to include transgenders in the proposed wage code Bill.

“Transgender persons should be specifically recognised in their self-identified gender, in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court in NALSA vs Union of India, in all the labour codes and all protection for transgender persons against discrimination and exclusion should be reinstated in the said codes, with immediate effect,” they said in a letter to Prasad.

Terming the Law Ministry’s move as “exclusionary and regressive”, the letter said these provisions had been approved by the nodal Ministry of Labour and Employment but “it appears that the Law Ministry has proceeded on the basis that transgender persons are already covered by the definition of “person” under the General Clauses Act, 1897.”

Citing a 2014 Supreme Court judgment that non-recognition of a transgender person’s gender identity violated the fundamental right to equality (Articles 14, 15 & 16), freedom of expression (Article 19) and right to life and personal liberty (Article 21), the letter said the position of the Law Ministry was “neither sustainable in law nor does it reflect the historic exclusion and discrimination faced by transgender persons on the ground.”

The letter said that the Labour Ministry sought to ensure that transgender persons were specifically recognised and protected by labour laws, but, “the stand of the Law Ministry that the General Clauses Act is sufficient is not only legally incorrect, but also has the effect of excluding transgender persons from the coverage of the Act altogether.”

Moreover, the Law Ministry’s contention that the definition was inclusive and broad enough to cover within its ambit all human beings, was not reflected in practice.

“If that were the case, then no transgender person would have had to struggle on a daily basis for their sustenance,” said the letter, signed among others by the Sexual Minorities Forum, Kerala; Telangana Hijra Samiti, Hyderabad; Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action, New Delhi; Maharashtra Trithiya Panthi Sangatana; Pahal Foundation, Lucknow; and West Bengal Forum for Gender and Sexual Minority Rights.