More on the “UID and Transgenders” Conference 1

The last post looked briefly at a news item reporting on the Bengaluru [Bangalore] conference “UID and Transgenders: Potential and Concerns.” I want to follow this up over the next few days by looking briefly at some of the sites where the conference was publicized. I first quote the conference invitation [English-language version] in full. It is a carefully thought through document:

Dear friends, Aneka and Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum invite you for a Consultation, UID and Transgenders: Potential and Concerns.  On Thursday, 10th November 2011, at Vidya Deep College, 128/1, Ulsoor Road, Bangalore 42 (near Shilton Suites) between 4 – 6:30 PM.  The ambitious Unique Identification number (UID) exercise that is now underway in the country has provoked strong responses from various sides. While some hail it as an enabler; a tool that can help the state deliver welfare measures and rights; others are sharply critical of the concept and process. Many of these concerns and issues have been debated on various fora, one issue that has not received the kind of attention it deserves is that of transgenders and the UID. The UID allows people to register themselves as transgenders (along with Male and Female).  In this respect the UID is indeed unique. (The other official document that has space for transgenders is the Election Identity Card that has a column called  “others” under sex.) Some organisations have taken this provision in the UID as a positive step and have started to encourage transgenders (and other sexual minorities) to enrol themselves. One of the reasons why transgenders find it difficult to access the UID is the erasure of their identity. Many of them have few “official” documents and the ones that they do have indicate the sex that they are born into and not the gender that they now express. The fact that they have no proof of their identity is a huge impediment to their sense of entitlement as well as for them to actually access the benefits that are rightfully theirs. However given the critical questions raised on privacy, civil liberties (besides technological feasibility and costs) an uncritical acceptance of the UID as a “pure good” is also problematic. Aneka and Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum invite you to a meeting to discuss and understand the implications of the UID for transgenders.

3 quick notes before proceeding:

1.The official inscription of the transgender: both UIDAI and the election card, according to the invitation, now allow registration under a third class, neither female nor male. At some point we should address the politics of kinnar/TG recognition “as third” in U.P. and Bihar, in north India, in relation to elections and reservation (affirmative action) policy. Part of the question for me is the differential commitment to “thirdness” as a site of respect and recognition.

2. Both sides now: The invitation offers terse but careful renderings of both the promise and the potential danger of UID on the sex/gender margin. It is one of the first documents I have seen over the past two weeks of this website’s existence that does not throw itself entirely into a pro-UID or anti-UID position. What are the conditions of this “balanced” position, in the making of this conference but also more generally? Are there other forms of address to UID that eschew the UID good/UID bad binary for other ways of problematizing what is at stake?

3. Whither welfare?: As noted in the invitation, the case for UID’s promise to the common man [sic], such as it is, presumes the rationalized and deterritorialized organization of rights and entitlements to persons as a “service model.” We have yet to explore the question of deterritorialization and mobility of a program organized around the “Resident” as the subject of service provision; we have yet to explore the presumptions of service itself as a potentially radical refiguring of citizenship and the political sphere. But more generally, how do we understand and conceptualize the politics of welfare under liberalism, in India in this case, and the impact in this context of UID? The historian Sarah Hodges in a kind response to this blog asked how UID was related to or supplanting the ration card, and indeed the question of the ration card might be a critical way in to frame this set of questions.

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