Begging Laws- Rights of Transgenders - Seeker's Thoughts

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Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

Begging Laws- Rights of Transgenders

Begging laws rob the most marginalised citizens of their fundamental human rights. Sleeping rough, homelessness and poverty affect an abundance of individuals; criminalisation of these persons further erodes their dignity.

Gender-diverse community members described how the Trans Act's successes and failures reflect gaps between legal rights achieved under its provisions and actual living conditions in which these community members lived. A focus solely on legal rights without also interrogating systems of colonialism, neoliberalism, or authoritarianism results in changes with limited impact that only make things legally official.

Defining Begging

Hijra and transgender individuals as beggars is an often misconceived stereotype that requires careful scrutiny. A deeper examination reveals that their choice to engage in beggary may be less related to personal choice but due to structural inequalities and social prejudices that force them into engaging in it as a survival mechanism.

Begging has become an effective form of survival when faced with systemic discrimination, family rejection and limited economic opportunities. Lack of gender-affirming healthcare and employment options only exacerbate their economic predicament further. Recently, Lacatus v Switzerland made headlines as the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) declared that criminalisation of beggary violates an individual's right to respect for private and family life.

This decision marks a critical step in the fight against discrimination against transgender people. The European Court of Human Rights' ruling in favour of Lacatus highlights the need for an inclusive policy framework which addresses root causes of discrimination against them and stops them from resorting to beggary as an income source. Such an inclusive framework should include rights that empower transgender people to pursue alternative sources of income as well as adequate legal protection against discrimination, exploitation and violence as well as policies which promote sustainable livelihoods and social inclusion.

Legality of Begging in India

Since 1959, beggary in India has been illegal and punishable with imprisonment or detention in "beggar homes." India's Constitution guarantees a person's basic needs including food, clothing and shelter are met; any statutory provision that violates this right could be declared unlawful and struck down. Excessive punishment under this act further impoverishes beggars living in extreme poverty while failing to recognize why so many turn to beggary as an option.

Recently, the Delhi High Court issued an unconstitutional judgment of Bombay Prevention of Begging Act and Rules, declaring them unconstitutional on grounds that its definition of begging was too broad and did not address root causes such as poverty, lack of access to education and social protection services as well as discrimination based on caste or gender.

However, the Court opted to uphold provisions of the Act that allow police to arrest anyone engaging in beggarly behaviour for more than an indeterminate amount or engaging in "badhai," in which hijra women dance and sing at marriage parties in exchange for money. Furthermore, it left state governments free to create alternative employment opportunities for begging communities that could replace precarious forms of employment such as beggary.

Social Impact of Begging

Begging is a complex social issue, and many sociological theories exist to help understand it. Unfortunately, though, relying solely on poverty as a cause may obscure its multidimensionality; many different factors and processes play an integral role.

Vulnerability is central to understanding begging. This concept refers to the underlying limiting factor which leads beggars' propensity for beggary; Vulnerability encompasses conditions or situations which make individuals more prone to beggary; as well as reactions or responses associated with their act of beggary itself, including but not limited to:

Hijra and transgender persons are particularly vulnerable due to an interplay of discriminatory attitudes and practices which create social marginalisation at an early age, often limiting access to formal employment sectors as well as exposure to racism, stigmatisation and prejudice.

Begging becomes an attractive alternative way of earning a living for them, leading them to beg more often as an alternative form of support. Their behavior may be further affected by stressors that accompany beggaring; such as loss of belongings and social interactions, insecurity, identity crisis, abuse, and health concerns. All these reactions become amplified when penalised under various forms of regulation from local governments or laws or criminal charges targeting these individuals directly.


Hijra and transgender individuals as beggars is a pervasive stereotype, one that needs to be dismantled through reframing of conversation. Instead of asking why they beg, we should ask how we can empower them to break free from this cycle by providing equitable opportunities, support, and dignity.

Continued activism and social movements have led to legal recognition of rights, including nondiscrimination based on gender identity, through the Transgender Persons Act. Unfortunately, many members of the community still struggle with substantively claiming these legal protections.

Example: Self-declaring gender cannot be exercised until certified by a medical board and undergone surgery (210-C of the Transgender Persons Act). Participants reported that healthcare centers often fail to address transgender people's healthcare needs as transgender people as they must undergo examination and medical procedure before being declared their true identities.

Additionally, transgender people can only claim benefits under current legislation if their family supports their decision and is aware that this action has occurred. This has an adverse impact on intersex and non-binary individuals who must leave behind loved ones due to fear of violence and exploitation.