Toilet access for transgenders has been an ongoing debate in the USA for quite some time now. There have been several governments that have refused transgender people the right to use public washrooms of their own choice. This had stirred up numerous debates in India as well. The Centre has now directed that transgenders be allowed to use public restrooms meant for either women or men according to their own choice. The circular issued by the Sanitation Ministry on gender issues in sanitation requests all the states to ensure the same.
According to The Times of India, the circular states,
In many communities, the third gender may often be dissociated from the mainstream. Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) should make a conscious effort that they are recognised as equal citizens and users of toilets. They should be allowed to use the facility of their choice (men or women) in community or public toilets.
Access to washrooms poses one of the biggest problems for sanitation. According to Youth Ki Awaaz, WaterAid reported in 2015 that around 60.4 percent of Indians did not have access to clean and safe washrooms. This number indicates India to be the biggest offender in the case of open defecation, making it much worse than many countries in South and Southeast Asia. With the Swachh Bharat Mission, India has tried to bring out many initiatives since 2014 to highlight the importance of toilets and its access.
Regarding initiatives on transgender inclusivity, the government has been making repeated efforts to ensure that no discrimination on the basis of genders occurs when it comes to public services and facilities.
This initiative comes at a time when North Carolina in the United States has reluctantly passed a law revoking its controversial bathroom bill. According to this controversial bill, transgenders were only allowed to use the washroom of the sex mentioned on their birth certificate. This bill had also prevented many cities and counties from passing laws that ensure the protection of people from the LGBT community. Though there have been many changes made to the bill, still there are many questions raised regarding certain sections that allegedly allow discrimination against people from the transgender community.
The circular also stated that there were many examples of transgenders having played a significant role in spreading the message of the Swachh Bharat Mission to households across the country. According to The Wire, the circular states,
Where suitable, their support can be enlisted in engaging communities, and their efforts duly recognised and honoured to break any stigma around them, and also to enable them to use facilities without any embarrassment.
This is definitely a move in the positive direction but India still has a long way to go as far as transgender rights are concerned.