Principal’s resignation reinforces prejudices against trans-people
Manabi Bandopadhyay, first transgender principal of any educational institute in India, has resigned. But the news shouldn’t dampen the spirits of the transgender community of the country
It is being perceived as a blow to the LGBTQ movement in the country. Dr. Manabi Bandopadhyay, a symbol of empowerment of the country’s transgender community, has resigned as principal of Krishnagar Women’s College in West Bengal. In June 2015, Dr Bandopadhyay made headlines when she became the first transgender principal of any educational institute in India. In the days that followed, she became a big source of inspiration for many in the transgender community. She is also credited with publishing Ob-Manab, the country’s first transgender magazine and becoming the first transgender person from West Bengal to complete a PhD.
It is bad news for transgender people struggling to fight prejudices in the country, say activists. In 2014, the Supreme Court formally recognised transgender people as the third gender. Last year, India elected its first transgender mayor, Madhu Bai Kinnar, in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh — who also happens to be from the Dalit community. In their larger battle against inequality and discrimination, the community, which, according to the 2011 Census, comprised 6 lakh people, is also fighting for basic needs such as like separate toilets. Recently the, Indian Railways and IRCTC have included transgender as third gender in the option, alongside male and female, in ticket reservation and cancellation forms.
A few days back, a residential school for transgender people has opened in the Kochi in Kerala, to help adults who dropped out of school finish their education. Many of them are unable to complete their education owing to hostility. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, which seeks to define the term transgender and prohibits discrimination against the community, was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the Monsoon Session. In 2017, it is expected to see a few amendments based on recommendations from transcommunity representatives.
At the time that she had taken over as the principal, Dr Bandhopadhyay had excitedly talked about how the students and faculty had accepted her with open arms, shedding preconceived notions. But clearly, with her resignation, along with the claim that some of her students and fellow teachers had agitated against her because of her sexual identity, it is clear that the prejudices are set deeper than she had anticipated.