SMILE initiative: Mainstreaming transgender persons for inclusive society under Viksit Bharat

Under the SMILE initiative, Viksit Bharat aims to integrate transgender individuals into society, fostering inclusivity and empowerment.

In pursuit of a Viksit Bharat (Developed India), the nation is committed to fostering inclusivity, particularly for marginalized communities, to ensure dignity and harmony without discrimination. On February 12, 2021, the government launched the Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise (SMILE) scheme, which includes a sub-scheme called the Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons.

This sub-scheme encompasses several components tailored to address the specific needs of transgender individuals. It includes provisions for healthcare support, skill development, and shelter homes for destitute transgender persons. Additionally, the scheme facilitates the establishment of transgender protection cells at the district and state levels, as well as transgender welfare boards at the state level, to ensure their rights and well-being.

Recognizing the importance of self-perceived identity, the government launched a National Portal for Transgender Persons in November 2020. This portal issues identity certificates that are recognized for updating names and genders in official documents like Aadhar and educational certificates. To date, over 16,000 transgender identity certificates have been issued through this portal.

Given the challenges faced by transgender individuals, including discrimination and violence, the government enacted the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2019. The SMILE scheme incorporates provisions from this act, such as establishing transgender protection cells and welfare boards, to ensure their safety and rights. Guidelines for model transgender welfare boards have been circulated to all states and union territories to facilitate their establishment.

The SMILE scheme also prioritizes providing safe residential facilities through shelter homes known as Garima Greh. These homes offer not only lodging and food but also counselling and skill development training to empower residents. Over 400 transgender persons have received skill development training through these homes, to facilitate their integration into the workforce or self-employment.

Recognizing the diverse medical needs of transgender individuals, the government has signed an MoU with the National Health Authority for a specialized Ayushman Bharat TG Plus card. This card provides access to more than 50 health benefits, including gender reassignment and cosmetic treatments, under the Ayushman Bharat scheme.

Furthermore, efforts are underway to ensure inclusivity in public infrastructure, with dedicated toilets for transgender persons included in the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) guidelines. Specialized skill development training programs are also being formulated by the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and the National Institute of Social Defence to enhance the employability and self-reliance of transgender individuals.

Through these concerted efforts, the government aims not only to promote the social inclusion and well-being of transgender individuals but also to harness their potential to contribute to the nation’s development, ultimately advancing the vision of a Viksit Bharat.