While the Donald Trump administration in the US recently rescinded Obama-era guidelines that allowed transgender students unrestricted access to bathrooms matching their gender identity, the Indian government has moved to allow the members of the community to use toilets of their choice.
In a significant move, the Ministry of Sanitation on Monday (April 3) issued guidelines to the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) stating that members of the third-gender community be allowed to use public toilet of their choice (men or woman), according to a report in Scroll.in.
Under the heading of ‘Inclusivity,’ the statement said that a “conscious effort” should be made to ensure that members of the community are “recognised as equal citizens and users of toilets”.
The guidelines on gender issues in sanitation also stated that there were examples from across India where those belonging to the third gender have played a significant role in taking the “message of Swachhata” to other households in their community.
“Where suitable, their support can be enlisted in engaging communities, and their efforts duly recognised and honoured to break any stigma around them, and also to enable them to use facilities without any embarrassment.”
In another move to ensure public toilet access for transgender people, the Madras high court on Tuesday (April 4) ordered the Tamil Nadu government to build public toilets for members of the community in parts of the city where they live in larger numbers.
According to a PTI report, Census 2011 indicates that there are around ten lakh people in Tamil Nadu who identify as transgender.
Even as the high court’s mandate was issued in response to a PIL, according to a Ladies Finger report, the 2014 Supreme Court judgment recognising transgenders as ‘third gender,’ which also included an order for separate toilets for members of the community in public places, is yet to be implemented.
The directive, according to the report, has only been followed by Mysore, which also has only one such separate toilet.
The government has before made efforts towards ensuring equality to transgender people when accessing public services. According to the Times of India, the urban development ministry has a “non-discriminatory clause” under the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, which allows anyone, including transgender people, to buy property in a complex.