Indian transgenders are soon to be recruited as assistant commandants in the Indian Paramilitary Forces. As a reformative step, earlier this month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), by sending a letter, sought comments from the paramilitary forces – Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), on recruiting transgender or third gender to the forces and directed them to consider incorporating ‘transgender’ as the third gender along with male/female in the rules of CAPF (Assistant Commandant) Examination 2020.
Individuals are appointed into such civil services after appearing for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examination. If the branches of India’s central paramilitary forces respond positively, UPSC will add transgender as the third gender in the application forms for the examination that is scheduled to be conducted in December 2020.
Currently, there is no provision of recruiting transgenders on any positions of the paramilitary forces or even in the Indian Army. However, this move of the MHA is followed by the passing of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 in the parliament last year. The bill aims at empowering transgender people.
Till now, ITBP, SSB and CRPF reverted to MHA stating that keeping in mind ‘gender neutrality’, they are ready to appoint transgenders as ACs in their respective forces. CISF, however, requested more time to convey their response. After gaining the responses from the forces, the government first is willing to start with the appointment of officers’ rank through the Staff Service Commission (SSC).
This year UPSC hopes to appoint around 300 assistant commandants. These will be hired based on their UPSC examination results. Assistant commandants are Grade A gazetted officers in the Central Armed Police Forces of India or CAPF. The rank of an assistant commandant equivalent to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and Captain in the Indian Army.
The data released by the Ministry of Home Affairs shows that currently there are 7,859 ACs (Assistant Commandants) on the job with all the paramilitary forces. The CRPF has the highest number of ACs in its ranks at 3,054, followed by BSF having 1,888 ACs, ITBP with 716, CISF 725, and SSB 542.
Overall, there are a total 10 lakh personnel in the paramilitary forces, deployed in securing India’s borders with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, and Nepal, anti-Naxal operations, counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir as well as ensuring law and order in various states of the country.
India’s first transgender police officer was appointed in the year 2015 in Tamil Nadu followed by Chattisgarh that was the first state to actively hire individuals of the transgender community in its police force.
Being a democratic nation that entitles each of its citizens, equal rights irrespective of their caste, religion, race, gender and sex, bars any establishment from discriminating against transgender persons in matters relating to employment, recruitment, promotion, and other related issues. Moreover, keeping in mind the new Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), on April 20, 2020 directed all the union government departments to incorporate transgender or third gender as a separate category of gender for appointment in civil services and other posts as well.
Although the Indian government’s step to recruit transgenders into the paramilitary forces deserves appreciation, given the country’s rigid social structure, we are yet late to take this step. In spite of the Supreme Court’s decision to scrap out Section 377 of Indian Penal Code in 2018, the members of the LGBTQ community, 3 years later are struggling for their basic rights granted to them by the Indian constitution. Most are being refused the basic economic rights of working and earning bread for their own survival.
Although the government has decided to welcome the transgenders in paramilitary forces, it is only on the rank of an assistant commandant. Further, the Indian Army is yet to open its gates to the third gender. It is important to note that our country has only recently started embracing women into the army, which indicates that inclusion of transgenders in the army still looks like a faraway vision.
At present, there are 19 countries of the world that recruit transgender in the military forces. Netherland was the first country to begin appointing transgenders in military roles in 1974.
Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Canada, Israel, Czech Republic, UK, France, Germany, Estonia, and Finland, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Thailand, Bolivia, New Zealand are the other countries with transgenders in the army. India must definitely be next in line.
As per the 2011 census, the community consists of 4,90,000 people.