In a first step towards breaking an age-old social barrier, Panjab University (PU) will now have separate columns in all application forms besides infrastructure such as toilets for the transgender community.
The decision taken in compliance with directions of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has made PU the first major university in the region to take the historic decision.
In formal orders issued by PU registrar Colonel GS Chadha (retd) on Friday, the university decided to have a column, 'transgender', under the gender category in all forms, academic testimonials and other documents processed and issued by the university. Besides, it would build transgender-friendly infrastructure, the order said.
These measures came on an all-India circular issued by the UGC on January 29, following a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in April last year giving the 'third gender' status to 'hijras' or transgender people.
Earlier, they were forced to recognise themselves as male or female. Delhi University made this move in August last year, and so did some others later, including some private institutions.
To further the essence of the move and bring members of the transgender community into the mainstream, awareness workshops for students and staff would also be organised.
While notifying the third gender to enable them to be eligible for all scholarship schemes and fellowship programmes in higher educational institutions, the UGC had also stated that it wishes to award major research projects on the life and culture of the transgender community.
Such research would lead not only to understand the transgender subculture in a better way but also help dispel several myths pertaining to the community embedded in popular discourse, it added.
"This is a great step. It will be a boost for those who are forced to give up their dreams of education because of discrimination and violence over their gender identity," commented Bikram S Kohli, an activist working in the field.
Welcoming the move, Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC) president Divyanshu Budhiraja said, "Everyone has the right to education and live with dignity and there should be no discrimination. The decision will encourage students from transgender community to education."
Simran Mahant, a transgender community member working as counsellor with NGO Saksham Trust, said, "We welcome this step. After years of having to choose between two genders to which we do not belong, it would help us get an identity. But there needs to be more awareness, sensitisation, and, if possible, some special benefits to uplift the community. That's how the Supreme Court envisaged it."