Thousands of trans people waiting months for IDs in India

Two LGBTQ+ Indians kiss during a Pride parade.

Thousands of transgender people in India are reportedly waiting months to obtain a certificate that will allow them to receive gender-affirming care.

Statistics reported by the country’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment found that over 3,200 applications had been waiting more than 30 days to receive a transgender certificate and ID card.

In India, transgender ID cards are nationally recognised documents which are required to obtain legal gender recognition and gender-affirming care.

The data, which was shared in response to a request into the numbers by Lok Sabha MP Jayadev Galla, found that the government had received a total of 24,115 applications in late 2023 and that 15,800 certificates had been issued.

Maharashtra – a state in India – accounted for the largest number of applications at 3,483, as well as the largest number of certifications at 2,478.

4,307 applications were reportedly rejected according to the statistics and 3,225 ID applications were still pending for over a month.

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As part of the country’s Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood & Enterprise (SMILE) scheme, which aims to support trans people, the government is required to administer trans certificates within 30 days.

Given that the wait times to access gender-affirming care in India can be up to four months, the delays mean that certain applicants could be waiting up to half a year to access hormones.

The Minister for social justice and empowerment, Abbaiah Narayanaswamy, said that the waiting times were being addressed through work with the National Institute of Social Defence – a subset of the Ministry – on “awareness programmes” that he believed will “reduce the pendency.”

The government also pledged to spread awareness about the scheme for trans citizens, emphasising the importance of obtaining a transgender certificate to be able to access gender-affirming care and apply for gender-affirming surgeries.

The SMILE scheme was enacted in 2020 along with the founding of the National Council for Transgender Persons, which oversees support protections for trans people in India.

Along with its pledge of issuing ID cards within 30 days, the Council has also pledged to promote awareness and sensitivity training in India and training schemes for trans and non-binary people to support them economically and independently.

Narayanaswamy said in a statement on the Council’s website that the scheme is a way to mitigate homelessness among trans people in India by providing them “comprehensive rehabilitation” which includes counseling, education, skill development and more.

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