Begging Laws- Rights of Transgenders - Seeker's Thoughts

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Begging Laws- Rights of Transgenders

Introduction: Begging can be described in multiple layers, as it is critical to identify and understand the reasons of begging. Historically, begging is associated with colonial rule which promoted unequal labor.  At present, there can be multiple factors involved like- Unemployment, lack of social acceptance, un- healthy environment, religious factors etc. 

How is it a crime? – According to the Bombay Prevention of begging Act 1959, begging remains a crime. Begging can be punishable up to 10 years.  For the first time offenders there can be 3years jail and so on. Since the Act enables the police to arrest without a warrant, such laws have a disproportionate impact on socio-economically disadvantaged transgender persons, who often rely on begging and other traditional means for survival.

Transgender: Victims – From Past to Present- A legal view
Anti-begging law is one of many used to target the transgender community. “Singing, dancing, fortune-telling, performing or offering any article for sale” are also come under a criminal offence.

Historically, the legal provisions against transgender persons had been started by the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 (CTA). This act enables the police to arrest without warrant nomadic tribes and “eunuchs” who were found dancing, playing music or taking part in any public exhibition

It was repealed in 1952, but it was replaced by the habitual offenders acts in various states for “restricting the movement of habitual offenders.

Examples are - Telangana Eunuchs Act, 1919, that allows for “registration and regulation” of transgender persons, adding to the existing stigma, and abetting arrests of transgender persons engaged in begging or sex work. 
In 2011, the Karnataka Police Act was amended to include a section 36A, titled “Power to regulate eunuchs. The police was allowed to detain eunuchs.

Due to these legal laws, many transgender persons are also harassed, arrested and detained under laws regulating public nuisance and obscenity. Section 290 and 294 of the IPC, for instance, effectively allow arrest for causing “annoyance of others” or doing “any obscene act in any public place”, or one who “sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words”.

Should it be a crime?- Constitutionally, the law which criminalizes begging violates fundamental rights. Specially, article 19 and 21 are being violated.

Socially and economic failures often lead to situations like begging among the extreme vulnerable groups. Detention or criminalizing the act without understanding the basic nature of will further increase vulnerability in society.

In order to address this historical oppression, the Supreme Court pronounced its landmark judgment in NALSA vs Union of India, 2014, affirming fundamental rights of transgender persons.
The Delhi High Court in a landmark judgment has held the Act as unconstitutional in Delhi, on grounds that it violates Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution restoring the rights of persons who have no other means of sustenance but to seek alms.

The court has acknowledged that The Anti-Begging Act lead to the detention the poor , homeless, poor persons living with disabilities, transgender persons, migrant or sex workers.

A lot more to be done-    There are certain ways suggested for welfare of beggars as state has responsibility to build social and economic capabilities for poor and marginalized citizens.

1.       To beg is not a crime and there should be social investigation reports for the welfare of beggars.
2.      There should be proper way of tracing the victims and rehabilitating them.
3.      Vocational training may help them in acquiring skills
4.      There should be proper medical support
5.      Adequate counseling and rehabilitation is required as well. There can be a working helpline like 'dial100 in UP' for identifying them. Community involvement is always appreciated, various NGO's can be helpful in their rehabilitation and obtaining a dignified life