Mahamedha Nagar, an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activist and the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) Secretary, has written to the Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar, urging him to make education for transgender students free in the University of Delhi (DU). The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Jamia Millia Islamia’s distance learning programmes have already made education free for transgenders. Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU) in Tamil Nadu has also made all courses free for transgender students.
Mahamedha told a DU Beat correspondent what compelled her to write this letter. She says, “I’ve always had interest in knowing more about transgenders. One night, I was generally watching this documentary on YouTube after which I came up with this idea!” If we talk about transgender students specifically in DU, in 2015, students were allowed the option to be recognised in the male, female, and other category. What is problematic though is that not a single student who identified as transgender took admission in DU (research by DU’s Adult, Continuing education. and Extension department). In an India Today piece published in 2016, transgender students in the varsity talked about being openly discriminated, harassed, mocked, and humiliated. Rules and one-off events are not enough to make an impactful enough change, everyday realities need to be taken into account as well. It is important that our education actively rejects the gender-binary, and programs to sensitise students and faculty towards gender-minorities be introduced. In 2016, no transgender student took admission in regular colleges and only 18 students took admission in the School of Open Learning (SOL).
Therefore, the idea of making education free for transgender students may sound like a noble one, its impact will continue to be miniscule as long as there are only 18 transgender students in the University. Scholarships are an extremely effective incentive to ensure greater participation of minority groups in the education sector, but they alone are not an incentive enough to promote participation of transgender students in the educational sector.
Amongst Indian states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been bearing the torch in creating a more inclusive society, especially in the context of transgender rights. In recent times, we have read heartening pieces of news like the first transgender person becoming a Sub-Inspector in Tamil Nadu police or the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation’s decision to allow transgenders to use public toilets of their choice, it is important to remember that these are still marginal victories. Nagar, by writing to the HRD Minister regarding transgenders, has sparked conversation around trans rights in the education sector and has successfully brought to the forefront a neglected topic. Major societal changes are born about the youth through the tools of education and dialogue. Therefore, it is important the message behind this this initiative be respected and transgender rights and rights of minorities be taken more seriously.
Feature Image Credits: DNA