It’s difficult to imagine that just a decade ago, transgender people were not legally recognised in India, their rights unenumerated and their struggles to access basic amenities undocumented. The extraordinary strides since the affirmation of transgender rights by the Supreme Court in 2014 is a testament not just to the pace of social change but also resilience and efforts of the community. More proof of this came this week from the Allahabad high court, which held that gender affirmation surgery is a constitutional right. Acknowledging the right of a Uttar Pradesh (UP) police constable to undergo gender affirmation surgery, the court held that there should be no doubt that a person experiencing gender dysphoria possesses a constitutionally acknowledged right to undergo surgical gender change.
The court’s order holds importance for two reasons. The first is around health care, where barriers still exist for transgender patients. More open conversations and endorsement from constitutional authorities can dispel the myths that hurt transgender people. Just like the Nalsa vs Union of India verdict pushed medical authorities to update their guidelines and excise outdated norms, the verdict can help in knocking down some obstacles around surgery. The second is around employment. The court’s intervention was necessitated because the UP Police sat on an application for months without a decision. The strong order, hopefully, can spur more proactive action from employers, especially those affiliated with the government, in ensuring the physical and mental well-being of their trans workers.