Promoting and Protecting the Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health of Transgender People: What We Can Do

Two weeks ago, we took a look at a new study -authored by an IWHC Advocacy in Practice alumna,  Neha Sood- on the health hurdles transgender women and men, and gender non-conforming people, face in Asia. Given the information presented in that report, it seems pertinent to ask ourselves, as trans and cis gendered people, as gender non-conforming people, as SRRH advocates, and as allies in a movement for better access to health and rights for all, what can I do about the rights violations I learned about in the report? How can I help ensure access to health services for transgender men and women, in Asia and around the world?

As Neha Sood, the author of the original report, pointed out, “Urgent as well as long-term sustainable action needs to be taken in order to protect, promote and fulfil transgender people’s rights, as well as empower them to access these.” She’s provided a list of actions that can be taken by states, members of civil society, and donor agencies, to help address some of the access problems she outlines in the original report, presented here without further ado:

The general public

  • Build understanding on gender, sexualities, sexual and reproductive rights and the links with all human rights, including on transgender issues, and educate society on the same. This would include dispensing with binary thinking (such as man and woman as the only two sexes) and sexual hierarchies (such as having a first and second sex).
  • Ensure that our own organizations, networks and partnerships have affirmative and non-discriminative policies, including for transgender women and men and gender non-conforming people.
  • Advocate for laws, policies and programs that protect and promote transgender people’s rights. Support mobilization, organizing and capacity building of transgender people for political purposes.
  • Work in partnership with different social movements towards social justice and human rights for all.

Donor agencies

  • Work in partnership with States and civil society to promote the rights of transgender people through organizing, capacity building, advocacy and support services, research on health needs, public education, training and sensitization of State  personnel and others.
  • Support building of inter-movement linkages and discourses, including with gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual rights movements.


  • Take affirmative action to promote the rights of transgender women and men and gender non-conforming people. Tamil Nadu in India set an example by reserving seats for transgender students in government-owned arts and sciences colleges and providing ration cards (identity documents) to transgender and gender non-conforming people.
  • Reform laws that discriminate against and render transgender people invisible, enact anti-discrimination laws and create laws that protect the rights of people regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. In Nepal, a 2008 Supreme Court ruling asserted that transgender women and men have equal rights as other people; in Fiji, a 2005 High Court ruling declared the criminalization of consensual adult sex in private unconstitutional; and in Delhi, a 2009 High Court ruling removed consensual adult sex in private from the ambit of “unnatural sex.”
  • Train and sensitize law enforcement personnel, healthcare providers and teachers on gender and sexuality, including on the needs and rights of gender non-conforming people.
  • Research health needs, particularly sexual and reproductive health, of transgender people and the appropriate responses, and include these in medical curricula.
  • Provide comprehensive gender and sexuality education to all children and youth, within and outside formal education systems, which includes discussions on sexual and gender diversity and sexual rights.
  • Engage transgender people in the formulation of laws and policies and in the planning, implementation and evaluation of programs that impact them. For example, consult transgender people to make medical guidelines regarding gender identity disorder and sex reassignment more responsive to their needs and less stigmatizing.


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