A Digital Revamp and a Makeover for Transgender ID cards in Kerala.

In a move being hailed by the transgender community, the Social Justice Department of Kerala has digitized the process of issuing ID cards to the transgender persons in the state. The format of the ID cards has also been changed after complaints from the community members.

The ID cards were first issued last year to the community members as part of the Transgender Policy of the state. Kerala was, in fact, the first state in the country to frame a transgender policy after the landmark NALSA verdict of Supreme Court in 2014, which recognised transgender people as the third gender.

Availability of identity cards, which would be key to access the welfare schemes earmarked for transgender in the state, were one of the primary demands of the community in their struggle for equal rights. However, after the launch ceremony, in which the government provided ID cards to 30 people from the community, there were few takers for these cards.

The reasons for this were several. Firstly, the process to apply for the card was strenuous, and required the individuals to appear before several offices before they could finally get their identity cards. Secondly, the cards did not have any government or Social Justice Department emblem, raising questions about its legitimacy.

Members were also agitated about the fact that the cards did not mention Transgender ID explicitly. Instead, the sex on all the cards was stated as transgender, denying individuals the freedom to choose their sex and thus violating the NALSA judgment. The members demanded that the person should have the right to determine the sex which should appear on their ID as being male, female, transman, transwoman and so forth.

The new process and format promises to address all these concerns of the transgender people.

An online platform to apply for the cards has been developed, which can be easily be accessed at http://swd.kerala.gov.in . The filled up application will be reviewed by the Transgender Cell set up by the government, which will forward it to the District Transgender Board. It will then reach the Social Justice Director for approval. The Director will forward it to the Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT) that has developed the ID card management system. The C-DIT will print it the same day and dispatch it to the applicant.

The fully online process will ensure privacy, as applicants do not have to go to any office or appear in front of anyone. 

TG cell project officer Shyama S. Prabha says the card will go beyond identifying scheme beneficiaries; it could be used to show one’s identity as per the Transgender Policy and make changes in other documents such as passport, Aadhaar, and so on. Applicants would also have the right to choose their genders in this revamped version.