In celebration of pride month, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, in association with Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), initiated An Online International Summer School Program | A Five-Day Immersive Online Certificate Training Course on Beyond Binaries: Understanding Sexual Identities and Queer Rights Issues in India.
Day three of this riveting programme was led by, Prof Vina Vaswani, Director, Centre for Ethics, and Professor, Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Yenepoya (Deemed to be) University, Mangalore
Professor Vaswani began by discussing the nature of knowledge and its philosophical foundations. She addressed the topic, “How is knowledge acquired?” using Stone’s (2008) Posteriori Knowledge and counter-philosophies such as Nietzsche and Rorty, while maintaining in mind Ramberg’s (2009) and Anderson’s (2017) assertion that research-based knowledge is frequently built on assumptions.
She moved on to examine the difference between human and humane, stigma, discrimination, human dignity, and the definition of dignity and free will when it comes to the treatment and acceptance of transgenders.
She elaborated on the question, “What happens when a child is born with sexual ambiguity?” She stated that doctors and parents are rushed to assign sex through surgery, known as Sex reassignment surgery, and this may cause problems later on if the newborn does not comply with the sex given at birth. By choice, that person may have to have surgery again. As a result, sex reassignment surgery at birth is prohibited (the abandoning of a newborn for being transgender has stunned experts in this field).
While discussing sex, gender was addressed. Gender is the self-perceived identity during childhood and adolescence and it is the notion of one’s own identity as male or female. Sex is a social structure, that is, femininity and masculinity that correspond to the sex assigned at birth. If it differs from the gender assigned at birth, the person is transgender. There are transgenders who have given birth to newborns.
Trystan Reese, from Portland, Oregon, was born female but started taking hormones nearly 10 years ago. He gave birth to a male child in 2017.
Status of Transgender in India
Professor Vaswani then discussed transgender individuals as well as their circumstances in India. Transgender persons are people whose gender identity differs from the gender given to them at birth. Gender is the idea of their own sexual identity. If there is a discrepancy between the sex given to them and their perspective, some parents declare that their kid is transgender. Parents reveal that both of their children are transsexual. In developed nations, parents send their children to school and provide emotional support. Sometimes the sex is not revealed until a youngster develops a gender sense.
Who is to blame for the dire situation of transgender persons in India, and who are we holding accountable for this discrimination? Everyone is involved, including ourselves. All levels of society disregarded these people. Being homosexual or lesbian is viewed as a disease. Transgender people face discrimination. Social, religious, and economic factors all have an impact on these sentiments. Even the crimes against transgender people did not have the same punishment as crimes against cis gender.
Looking at the National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India. In a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of India which declared transgender people as ‘third gender”. Affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to them, and gave them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third gender. Since transgender people were treated as socially and economically backward classes, the court held that they would be granted reservations in admissions to educational institutions and jobs. For instance, Kerala was the first to introduce Transgender welfare policies.
Concept of Ethical Economics
Professor Vaswani proceeded to discuss the concept of Ethical Economics and Not Ethics versus Economics, in our society. She stated that traditionally, economics has focused primarily on efficiency and maximising individual utility or profit, and often neglects broader social and environmental consequences. Whereas, Ethical economics is a framework that seeks to integrate ethical considerations into economic decision-making and policy formulation. It recognises that economic choices and actions have profound social and environmental implications, and therefore, ethics should be an integral part of economic analysis.
She further elaborated that Ethical economics considers the well-being of individuals, communities, and the environment and recognises the importance of fairness, justice, sustainability, and human rights in economic systems.
Ethical economics advocates for including diverse perspectives and considering long-term consequences when making economic choices. Ethical economics encourages economists, policymakers, and individuals to reflect on the moral implications of economic choices and work towards economic systems that prioritise ethical considerations alongside economic efficiency.
Professor Vaswani concluded her presentation by citing the Preamble to the Constitution of India. How we should live by the ideals of Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity while simultaneously aiding others who are deprived of them.
Every lecture was followed by an interactive question and answer session which facilitated a more nuanced understanding of the topics covered and cultivated a critical understanding among the participants about beyond the binaries.
Closing the session, Samriddhi thanked the panel members for their insightful sessions and the program ended with a vote of thanks.