No transgender students, staff in Central varsities
More than five years after the Supreme Court of India paved the way for transgenders to be officially recognised as the third gender, the community still lacks visibility in the education sector.
According to the information shared by the Union ministry of human resource development (HRD) recently, not a single student has registered as transgender in any of the Central universities across the country.
The data further states that not a single Central university has teaching or non-teaching staff belonging to the transgender community. However, 814 students have registered under the ‘other’ category at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) over the last five years. The situation is similar in-state universities, including the University of Mumbai (MU).
“The University Grants Commission (UGC) has adopted a number of measures to ensure increase in population of the transgender community in the higher education sector, including a separate column for transgender category in all application/admission forms, inclusion of transgender as the third gender for various scholarships, encouraging teachers to undertake major research projects funded by the commission on culture of the transgender community, among others,” said the HRD ministry at the recently concluded Lok Sabha session.
It further states that the transgender community is permitted to appear in UGC National Eligibility Test (NET) for teachers under the ‘other’ category with the same relaxation in fee, age, eligibility conditions and qualifying criteria for NET as are available to those from the SC/ST/PWD categories, but not much has changed in the 40 Central universities affiliated to UGC.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of April 2014 had asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backwards and that transgenders should be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.
However, experts still feel the level of acceptance across higher education institutes is very low. “The acceptance that the transgender students can come into higher education and have an equal right to education and employment within academic institutions among the administration is fairly new. Central Universities are now more accepting of transgender students,” said Dr Lakshmi Lingam, professor and expert in gender issues, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). In 2016, a couple of years after the Apex Court made transgender the official third gender, MU had received 11 applications under the ‘other’ category. “We found out that apart from registration, not a single student came forward for the admission. These students either are registered as male/female or didn’t confirm admissions at all. Most of them don’t want to reveal their identity,” said a MU spokesperson.
Recently, Santosh Londhe who prefers to be known by her adopted name, Sridevi, became the first student from the University of Mumbai to hold a degree as a ‘recognised’ transgender. “Slowly the system is changing. Awareness, as well as acceptance, will take time. We should encourage more people to open up about their gender rather than hide the same,” said Sridevi, 32.